Emily Smith, 8 October 2015

DON’T limit Abbot Point to coal, and why not use the port to export Bowen’s world-class produce?

Those were the kinds of ideas put to the minister assisting the premier on northern Australia Coralee O’Rourke and Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert at a roundtable discussion with Mackay business leaders yesterday.

The discussion was the third in a series of five forums focussed on developing northern Queensland.

“Very similar topics are brought up consistently at the discussions; water security, alternate energies and the marketing and branding of our regions,” Ms O’Rourke said.

“They were a very passionate group (at the Mackay roundtable) and identified a lot of strengths.”

Despite the strengths, Ms O’Rourke said the group hit on the need to dispel myths Mackay was an expensive place to live and invest.

She said many tourism opportunities were identified, but “regulatory burdens” needed to be removed, to make the most of them.

“They said in Airlie beach only one cruise ship can dock each day. So if two want to come, one has to keep on sailing,” she said.

“These are the types of regulations we can look at how to change.”

Despite the mining downturn, she said Mackay had a wealth of mining knowledge it could export.

Ms Gilbert said exporting agricultural know-how was another option discussed.

“A safer, smaller city like Mackay would be an attractive option for international students, especially those interested in agriculture,” she said.

Agricultural stakeholders were also keen to see the biofuels sector grow, and believed increasing the ethanol mandate to at least 6% would provide that foundation.

She said Bowen producers were urging for the Urannah Dam to be built, ensuring their water security, but drought-stricken Isaac region farmers wanted a dam they could utilise.

The ideas would now be fed back to the premier, cabinet and the state infrastructure department, and used to develop the northern Australia plan.

Discussions would continue at the North Queensland Economic Summit in Cairns November 4-6.

The Big Ideas:

  •  Attracting more overseas students, especially for agriculture courses.
  •  Encouraging biofuels industry and increasing the biofuels mandate.
  •  Ensuring water security by building more dams and channels, like Urannah Dam.
  •  Making Abbot Point a multi-cargo port, where produce can be exported from.
  •  Setting up a cannery at Bowen.
  •  Marketing and branding the region to overseas tourists.
  •  Export mining knowledge.
  •  Reduce ‘regulatory burdens’ holding back tourism industry.

Extracted in full from the Daily Mercury.