Boyne Valley resident voices views on region's future
RESIDENTS across the region have been contributing ideas for the future vision for Gladstone.
Visioning Visioning workshops have already been held at Mt Larcom, Agnes Water, Boyne Island, Calliope and the Boyne Valley this week as part of the community-led Vision 2035.
The final event, open to everyone, is being held at the Gladstone Entertainment and Convention Centre from 8.30am-1pm today.
Some of you put pen to paper and shared your thoughts and ideas on your vision.
FOURTH-generation Boyne Valley resident Mark McLachlan, who has been a long-term member of the Ubobo Progress Association, has strong views on how to make the region better.
He put pen to paper and shared his thoughts on the region:
The name Gladstone Region is a misnomer. This is the Port Curtis Region. If we could get to the stage where the council, in particular, was happy to govern as the Port Curtis Regional Council, we would be a long way ahead.
While the bulk of the population lives in the Gladstone/Calliope/Boyne Island area, the hinterland is a vast area by comparison.
It can either be ignored and underdeveloped or much better policies and practices developed and implemented over the next 20 years, which see the whole region become a place "where people want to live, work and stay".
Further, the Visioning Process page lacks any mention of the key element crucial to the further development of this region.
That is 'enjoyment'. Without that element no one will want to "live, work and stay". The hinterland can play a major role in this.
Gladstone is described as an industrial city, and this carries a lot of baggage.
While facilities such as entertainment centres, sports fields etc., can improve lifestyle & enjoyment in the city, the development of this region can be greatly enhanced over the next 20 years if the hinterland and all it has to offer is developed, and made more readily available to all residents, so that they may enjoy all it has to offer.
It is very difficult to improve on all the things nature provides outside of the urban sprawl, but comfortable easy access to these things need to be made available.
Gladstone is described as an industrial city, and this carries a lot of baggage. Much as GAPDL would encourage people to see beyond this, it is a fact.
Calling the region the Gladstone Region tars the entire region with this. I'm sure Agnes Water would be much rather be recognized as part of the Discovery Coast than the Gladstone Region.
Older residents of Gladstone, the Boyne Valley, Mt Larcom, Miriamvale and other rural areas always identified as being part of the Port Curtis area, hence the PCD, or Port Curtis Dairy (factory and co-operative), from the days when dairying was a significant industry across the region.
Instead of GAPDL, the PCAPDL should be able to promote the 'Curtis Coast', which would present a completely different profile to the world, more in line with the 'Sunshine Coast', 'Discovery Coast', or the 'Keppel Coast' or all the other easy to promote names up and down the Qld coast.
Regarding employment: Gladstone has had a boom and bust cycle since developing into an industrial city.
This is the greatest issue facing this region, and is exacerbated by the lack of development of all types of infrastructure and services in any areas other than the city.
The greater part of this region (area wise) is not an industrial zone.
Considerable wealth and jobs are generated in Gladstone, and while the residents and Council can encourage further development in the industrial area, this is largely governed by things outside our control.
The world economy, state, federal and foreign governments all control this much more than we can.
Even so, actually deciding that there is much we can do to address this is a key issue. As a community we need to convince our local government to take a key role in leading better development in the rest of this region.
If industrial development is mostly out of our control, we need to enhance development in other areas.
Strategies enhancing development for local businesses will help across the region, including city areas, and need to be developed.
State government also has a role to play, and getting State government to come on board has to be ensured by developing sound proposals for funding.
Strategies enhancing services and infrastructure across the region will help local businesses attract staff to live and work across the region, and need to be developed.
However, the lack of or poor physical infrastructure and services in areas outside the city boundaries greatly impedes local businesses creating jobs, and improving possible tourism income, and needs to be addressed.
Lack of access to or poor implementation of services in areas too far from the city centre for easy access to said services is a problem. This discourages residents and business establishing in areas other than city areas.
The shire plan has a pivotal role to play, along with some state government regulations, and implementing necessary changes & enhancements to the town plan is an issue.
A quick perusal of the proposed new town plan, would suggest there is a focus on concentrating development in city areas, and within those areas into smaller areas or even high rise.
The justification is that infrastructure can service more people more cheaply. I would suggest that this is a retrograde policy, and the philosophy behind it is beyond the scope of this comment.
It is a fact that this region is a large area, and a centralist policy for infrastructure development is detrimental to all of us.
The plan needs to ask and answer the question "How can the shire plan best facilitate development across the region, so people will want to live, work, stay and enjoy life, in a style that may not necessarily be in a densely populated urban area? "
Key opportunities for this region can be realized if the council and the state governments recognize that a key area they can influence to level out the boom bust job cycle in the Gladstone area, is through promoting development in those areas outside the big industrial zones (though not to the detriment of those places).
Planning far beyond the scope of this comment needs to be done. I will suggest a growth opportunity available in the Boyne Valley; though I am sure there would be other projects across the region.
The Boyne Valley community developed an accommodation and recreation facility at Ubobo (Discovery Centre), which has led to a considerable growth in tourism activity in the area.
This has been a self-help project with a number of aims, but centred on trying to grow employment in the area. To its credit, the shire has helped with planning costs, etc., and Councillors have offered encouragement.
One thing that is evident from comments and feedback received over several years is that there is a considerable demand for better direction to, and information about outdoor attractions.
In other states, in particularly Tasmania, it is hard to find areas without good signage and access to things such as walking and horse riding trails, and any points of interest in the area visitors might wish to see, or available activities.
While the Discovery Centre has embarked on a project to produce pamphlets with such information about drives to local attractions, there is an opportunity to develop a shire wide coordinated program to improve this.
The old railway corridor through the Boyne Valley is a great opportunity to develop a major, first class tourist attraction for the region. Might I say the Turtle Way would pale into insignificance, alongside it?
The corridor ranges from the historic rail tunnels in the south, across creeks, open range country, river flats and the river (with bridges across beautiful waterholes), and out into the Awoonga Dam, and could encompass a wide range of activities.
Council funding is most often allocated on a perceived equity basis in proportion to the location of population. Council will need to recognize that funds will have to be spent outside this pattern to promote development of infrastructure in areas outside the city boundaries.
The aim is to benefit all residents in the longer term, just as development of facilities in the city areas can be of use to those in outlying areas. In fact Council will need to recognize that some of these outlying areas are presently underfunded.
Simple things such as access to library services could be greatly improved.
Physical infrastructure and services in the region can be greatly improved, though with a concentration on those areas outside the city boundaries, where it is lacking the most.
This includes areas such as sealing rural roads, bringing concrete causeways up to a decent standard in a more timely manner, and having basic things such public toilets and rubbish bins located in smaller centres. The list is endless but needs to be worked out.
The library service is an example. Council's philosophy in regards to provision of services by the Entertainment Centre is another. Council has a key opportunity to examine each service it offers to see how it could be improved to try and attain more equitable access for all in the region.
Simple things such as access to library services could be greatly improved. I realise that libraries can't be built everywhere, however here is a simple suggestion.
At present, a resident (who may have driven for an hour and a half to reach the library) can enquire about the availability of a book.
If unavailable, said book can be reserved so that when it is back in the library it is kept available.
This seems reasonable to this point. The kicker is that said resident then has to physically present his or her card at the library to get the book, then again, at a later date physically return the book.
Surely one should be able to at least eliminate the second trip to the library by digitally signing the book out, from home on the internet.
Gladstone Regional Libraries provide a Home Library Service to residents of Gladstone and the areas of Boyne Island, Tannum Sands and Calliope.
This is commendable, and as I understand it is for people such as the aged who cannot easily access the library. Even though this is a great service, it demonstrates the inequity of availability of services.
I realise that the cost of this type of service to the far flung parts of the shire would be prohibitive, but things would be greatly improved if as well as being able to search for and reserve books etc. on the net, one could book the books out without having to physically present a card. It would then be possible to arrange a pickup and return to remote communities.
This could be done from within local communities, or by council utilizing council staff who may already travel to remote communities on a regular basis.
Improving communication in these areas is crucial. Decent mobile telephone coverage is a must. Although phone coverage is not a council responsibility, this should not preclude it from actively working with the community to see it happens.
Council has a key opportunity to review its activities to ensure jobs and contracts are decentralized across the region. Although it could be argued that this could just lead to shifting jobs from one area to another, it can be a catalyst for further growth in rural areas of the shire.
It is also difficult to argue that those jobs should be only based in city areas, which is largely the case with present policies.
Council has a key opportunity to liaise with small business to develop a plan to bring major improvements that enable reduction in red tape and costs, encouraging job growth across all industries, but with an emphasis outside the usual heavy industry.
Council has a key opportunity to see that the new shire plan encourages development in rural towns and villages. At present it is extraordinarily difficult for this to happen.
There is no longer any opportunity for land to be released for sale in rural areas as "lifestyle blocks" (2 to 40 acre blocks). I understand the problems inherit with these for council, and they (along with the state) have successfully eliminated them as a possibility in any form.
This needs to be revisited, as it presents a viable and legitimate way to grow rural communities.
There is also a real demand for this type of development, and a way through the problems associated with it can be found. Councils present efforts to release land for sale in Ubobo are to be commended.
If physical infrastructure, services and policy can be improved sufficiently, population growth, new jobs and tourism will grow the economy of the region outside the usual heavy industry areas.
The existing economy of the Boyne Valley in particular is based on beef, irrigated crops, and timber, with some tourism, and has become a small dormitory for people working in Gladstone. Any of these activities will be enhanced with better infrastructure and services.
However, between them, local and state government hold the key to further development in this district. While they continue to allow GAWB to flood the road on a regular basis, this community cannot be expected to grow and thrive.
Fixing this is a key opportunity to growing the economy in this area. While this situation continues, all assets in the Boyne Valley are devalued. No new industry can be expected to locate here.
GAWB and its development partners received up to 20 million dollars for finishing the Awoonga Dam and associated works ahead of time and under budget for a shoddy job.
This was compounded by Main Roads taking delivery of a substandard road, which floods regularly. (O.K. rant over, but that is factual)
All of Gladstone and all of its industry benefits at the expense of the residents and businesses of the Boyne Valley. If a larger population was affected like this, it would be fixed quickly. As it is, the Boyne Valley population is totally disenfranchised.
There is a key opportunity to fix this. Impose a very small levy on the water from the Awoonga Dam to finance the raising of this road.
I have no doubt that there are numerous similar opportunities across the region, to enhance the economic activity outside the heavy industry areas. Heavy industry infrastructure should not be developed at the expense of others.
The Visioning process page on this website opens with the following statement:
''Learn more about the vision 2035 project. We hope to achieve a thriving and sustainable community led city" which adequately outlines the main challenge. You may notice the last word in the quote 'city'.
Therein lies the problem for this REGION.
It would be great if we could say:
"We want to attract people from the outside TO THIS REGION and we want to create an environment where people want to live, work and stay, and enjoy life."
It is really difficult to outline just how frustrating it is to get Council, businesses, newspapers, tourism bodies etc., to realize there is more to this region than Gladstone, the city.
I do not mean any of this to be an exercise in bashing "Council, businesses, newspapers, tourism bodies etc." and recognize and thank them for the good work often done by them, but there it is.
This is to the detriment of the whole region including the residents of Gladstone City. Lack of development outside the urban areas limits any residents' ability "to live, work, stay and enjoy", anywhere other than in the urban sprawl.