THE arrival of 20,000 new residents, the end of a $60 billion construction boom, a health system under stress and conflict over the environment - the Gladstone region faces a monumental decade.
As Gladstone Area Promotion and Development Ltd prepares to host the 2013 Gladstone Futures Summit, the region's leaders have some serious planning to do.
CQUniversity economist Professor John Rolfe says big things await the port city, which 50 years ago was based around a simple abattoir.
"I expect that Gladstone will develop to be Australia's premier industrial port city," he said.
"Coal and gas exports from southern Queensland will almost exclusively go through Gladstone, and there will be some limited expansion of minerals processing and industrial development in the city."
Prof Rolfe said with the region's population growing from the current 60,000 to 80,000 by 2023, urgent planning for social infrastructure was needed.
GAPDL chief executive Glenn Churchill said the futures summit had a crucial planning role.
He said nobody had definitive answers about the region in 2023.
"Where do we see Gladstone in 10 years? This is the reason that GAPDL runs the summit," Mr Churchill said.
"Thirty years ago, GAPDL was formed as an image committee, based on improving the image of Gladstone. It has come back to bite us again - it's worth the time, effort and commitment to continue to positively promote our image."
For Mr Churchill, "liveability" is a key theme when planning Gladstone's future.
"We've got to be proud of what we've got; we've got have some passion, and actually care for it.
"Gladstone has so many wonderful people. There are so many success stories here in business. We've got to talk about that, be proud of it.
"We've got the Sydney to Gladstone flights now. All we've got to do is get those Sydneysiders aware of what's up here, and wanting to come up."
Prof Rolfe agreed that, even from an economic point of view, liveability was key to the region's future.
"There needs to be some certainty that new developments can be accommodated at Gladstone without causing major environmental concerns, otherwise the city will not be attractive to industry," he said.
"As well, the city needs to improve and develop its image of liveability to attract and hold workforce and families in the region."
He said dealing with waves of industrial activity was an ongoing task.
"A key challenge (over the next 10 years) will be to deal with boom and bust cycles," he said. "Resource developments are becoming very expensive and difficult in Australia, and there appears to be only slow recovery in the world economy."
Mr Churchill said there would be no easy fixes.
"Leadership is about making tough decisions at tough times."
The Gladstone Region Futures Summit will be held on Thursday, featuring speakers from different sectors discussing the region's future.
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