By Duncan Evans
State Labor member for Rockhampton Barry O’Rourke has outlined his vision for development across the Rockhampton region out to the year 2030 in a whitepaper released on Monday.
Titled ‘Rocky 2030: Seizing the Opportunities to Grow Our Region’, the paper concentrates on the key drivers of growth that could generate prosperity for the region over the medium-term and seeks to establish a baseline vision to guide development and planning between local, state and federal government.
In his introductory remarks, Mr O’Rourke said the paper was intended “as a starting point for an ongoing discussion about our region’s future – and a foundation for stakeholders to work together to build on.”
“With proper planning, political willpower across all three levels of government and the support of the business community, our region can seize the opportunities to grow in a sustainable way over the coming decade and beyond,” he writes.
The paper is divided into three sections.
Section 1 is titled Areas of Opportunity and analyses the industries that could propel growth in the region moving forward.
The paper highlights the region’s existing strengths in agriculture and aquaculture and sees greater potential for an expanded manufacturing base. It also argues that Rockhampton should position itself as a recycling hub to capitalise on a global movement towards more efficient waste handling practices.
Section 2 is titled CQ Advantages and emphasises four competitive advantages that the Rockhampton region already possesses.
Firstly, the region’s abundant sunshine could see it develop into an energy production powerhouse. This in turn could trigger flow-on development in other industries.
“As the key factor in manufacturing green hydrogen is a renewable energy source, investing in the solar potential of the Rockhampton region would greatly serve the hydrogen industry in the future,” the paper reads.
Secondly, Rockhampton possesses an abundance of land primed for industrial use.
“Given the infrastructure and development currently taking place, the region offers a cost-effective place to develop large scale projects that can be logistically supported by the area,” the paper reads.
Thirdly, the region is closely linked to large ports, namely the Port of Rockhampton and the Port of Gladstone.
“These ports are the doors to a booming export market and are integral to the growth of industries in Central Queensland,” the paper reads.
Fourth, the paper emphasises the value of Rookwood Weir as a conduit to greater agricultural development.
“The $367 million project will provide a support system for a range of new and existing agricultural businesses,” the paper reads.
Section 3, titled Supercharging Rockhampton’s Growth, lists a series of concrete proposals designed to ignite a boom in development across the region.
Creating a State Development Area near Rockhampton, offering regional tax incentives, expanding infrastructure investment, collaborating more closely with TAFE and Central Queensland University, building a convention centre in the city and investing in military infrastructure across the Rockhampton area are some of the proposals outlined in the section.
The paper was launched on Monday morning at the North Rockhampton Boat Ramp alongside Rockhampton Mayor Tony Williams.
“It’s about working together with local businesses and local leaders to identify the right projects and initiatives for our economy and coming up with a collaborative approach towards getting them off the ground,” Mayor Williams said in a media release.
The paper was commissioned by Mr O’Rourke and compiled in consultation with community leaders, Rockhampton Regional Council and academics.
It is unclear which academics worked on the paper, or which universities they were drawn from.
Rockhampton’s federal representative in Canberra, LNP member for Capricornia Michelle Landy, was not consulted for the paper and she expressed her dissatisfaction with its contents in a press release on Tuesday.
“The member for Rockhampton included defence in his white paper, but he needs to understand that it falls under the responsibility of the federal government and the Department of Defence, not the state government,” she said.
Ms Landry also said community consultation for the paper had been insufficient and that the paper did not include some the region’s key industries.
“I have been contacted by constituents concerned that there have been industries that have not been included in this white paper, including the resources sector. The member for Rockhampton talks about renewables in this paper but nothing about the resources sector, which is a major part of the economy in Rockhampton,” she said.
“Community consultation will be vital in the development of Rockhampton and I’m concerned that residents, the business community and organisations have been bypassed,” she added.
“Rockhampton has a bright future ahead but I believe that the member for Rockhampton needs to go back to the drawing board and properly consult with the community.”
In a Facebook post from Tuesday afternoon, Mr O’Rourke disputed some of Ms Landry’s claims.
“She (Ms Landry) also claims there’s no mention of the resources sector in the whitepaper when in fact mining is mentioned multiple times,” he writes.
“Talking up new economic opportunities doesn’t mean we have to talk down existing industries. We can retain a strong coal mining industry and rebuild local manufacturing at the same time.”