REVEALED: What life will look like in a post-gas Maranoa
COMING off the back end of the high of the oil and gas sector in the Maranoa region, the local council has thought long and hard about how to grow its other industries.
While gas companies are expected to call the Maranoa a home base for at least 50 more years, Maranoa Regional Councillor Cameron O'Neil last week addressed Toowoomba Surat Basin Enterprise's end-of-year gathering to talk about how his council had diversified its other industry bases.
"Council, since 2013, has been looking at diversifying the industry bases aside from the oil and gas sector, because there are peaks and troughs in that industry and we are coming off the back end of a high, so what can we as a council do to help mitigate some of that," he said.
"We identified education, tourism and agricultural sectors as areas where we can help facilitate some outcomes to help diversify that."
Cr O'Neil said agriculture was one of the main sectors the council was backing, particularly a proposed new meatworks at Pickanjinnie, near Wallumbilla.
Spear-headed by Valinda Team, there have been talks with the council to build an abattoir since 2013, and the project was granted preliminary approval for the development of a site on the corner of the Warrego Highway and Pickanjinnie North Rd, 7km west of Wallumbilla.
"I'm happy to say that we've got a proposal before council that has preliminary approval," Cr O'Neill said.
"We've also seen some niche markets come out from the agriculture sector, and Maranoa Beef is a prime example, they have got a unique opportunity to market the Maranoa. That's one example of what other people can do to diversify the agriculture space as well."
Cr O'Neil said an initial idea was to work with the oil and gas sector, as well as the vocational education sector, to create an education hub in Roma to upskill new and existing workers in that space.
"We were probably a little too late on the curve in terms of getting that off the ground, there was in-principle support, but it was right when the change was happening of going from constructional to operation," Cr O'Neil said.
"Fast forward to this year, we're talking about the country universities centre, which we're really excited about.
"The more we talk about it, the more momentum we build behind it. And I'm really proud that's one way we're achieving the diversification of the education base."
A collection of Maranoa-specific tourism drawcards will soon near completion, hoping to draw more tourists than ever before to the region.
"Between March and October of each year we have this influx of people, either stopping in our towns or going through our towns in the Maranoa, so what can we do to get them to stay an extra night?" Cr O'Neil said.
"Whether that be in Surat, Mitchell, Roma, Injune, it doesn't matter, it's about getting them here to stimulate the local economy, because if they're stopping an extra night, that's more money that will ultimately flow through the broader Maranoa."
The Roma Saleyards diversification and expanding tourism has been a major project for the Maranoa Regional Council.
"Tacking on to the 50th anniversary celebrations we've had this year, we also have a new canteen, a new admin centre for the agents and for our staff, the new bull-selling ring, but we've tacked on the interpretative centre and that's how we're capturing people coming into our town," he said.
"The saleyards are a significant asset for our region, and now we're working on marketing that to tourists. And of course, the Big Rig is another major tourism drawcard, and we have some major developments about to happen here which will showcase the history of the oil and gas sector.
"That's another reason why we might get the grey nomad to park up their caravan for an extra night, or stay in a motel.
"Oil and gas is here for the next 50 years, granted it's more on the operational side, but there are some exploration projects under way there, too.
Senex, Santos and Origin have a lot of history in the Maranoa, they are a major contributor to our local economy, and they're going to be a major part of our future."