REPURPOSING: Emerald and Longreach agricultural colleges closed last week. Picture: Simon Green
REPURPOSING: Emerald and Longreach agricultural colleges closed last week. Picture: Simon Green

‘DISAPPOINTING’: End of an era as ag colleges closes doors

LAST Friday marked the end of an era, as Emerald and Longreach agricultural colleges closed.

Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said he was shocked by the State Government's decision to close the colleges.

The colleges were established in the late 1960s and Mr O'Dowd said both had worked well to train and educate generations of farmers, horticulturalists and pastoralists.

"Our agricultural industry has really taken a hit today, as a vital resource for future generations has been shut down," Mr O'Dowd said.

"The State Government has a lot to answer for, especially when it comes to investing in regional Queensland.

"This is a sad day for agriculture across this nation and for Queensland in particular."

He said the announcement could not have come at a worse time with drought and water shortage affecting both Emerald and Longreach.

"Obviously the State Government does not respect the future of agriculture in an agricultural state," he said.

"With increased federal funding to education, the State Government seems to continue to cut funding to schools. Where is the money going?

"I am surprised there were no successful negotiations with a third party to take over the colleges."

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said he was disappointed to hear Mr O'Dowd's "ill-informed community-bashing" comments and added the Federal Member had not been paying attention.

"As has been widely reported, the Project Management Office has received a number of proposals for the future repurposing of the college facilities at Longreach and Emerald and is working through the business case process," Mr Furner said.

"The Project Management Office, headed by Charles Burke, has worked closely with community consultative committees in Emerald and Longreach to ensure the needs of these communities are at the forefront when the future of these facilities is decided.

"Mr O'Dowd is sorely out of touch. The Emerald and Longreach communities have an exciting future ahead of them and these facilities will play a role in this future."

Mr Furner said the centres were no longer cost-effective to deliver training needed.

"The independent review of vocational education and training by Professor Peter Coaldrake confirmed that more flexible options were needed to achieve a better training model," he said.

"The Project Management Office is now working with shortlisted proponents to develop detailed business cases for the Longreach and Emerald facilities which will include the provision of agricultural and other training alongside other community, industry, educational and commercial uses."