Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher and Member for Rockhampton Barry O’Rourke.
Member for Gladstone Glenn Butcher and Member for Rockhampton Barry O’Rourke.

How to make Gladstone grow: Forum flags population priority

GROWTH in long-term, stable jobs will bring people to central Queensland and help create a self-serving economy.

That was the message from Gladstone MP Glenn Butcher at the State Government's regional community forum held in the city yesterday.

A self-serving economy worked when people spent money locally and created opportunities in industries such as retail and hospitality, Mr Butcher said.

The forum, one of several held around the state yesterday, was designed to increase regional communities' input into government decisions.

Mr Butcher said forecasts showed the population would continue to grow off the back of industrial activity.

"People like (Demographics Group managing director) Bernard Salt have come out publicly and said the Gladstone population will one day surpass Rockhampton, and a lot of that has to do with industry coming to this area," he said.

Mr Salt clarified that Gladstone's population (about 45,000) was growing at a faster rate, but would not be in a position to overtake Rockhampton (78,000) any time soon.

He said governments spending time in regional areas was important to help address what cities and towns would look like in the future.

 Mr Salt said a sign of good leadership is striking a balance between meeting current needs while planning for what the next generation inherits.

Mr Butcher said the state development area to the northwest of the city was a key part of attracting more development.

Listing the figures of about 15,500 people coming to the area to develop the LNG plants, and 700 remaining to operate the facilities, he said the more growth in long-term permanent work, the better off Gladstone would be.

Tourism Minister Kate Jones and Housing and Public Works Minister Mick de Brenni also attended the event.

Ms Jones said it was important the concerns and ideas coming from regional Queensland were heard around the cabinet table.

'This is about locals having a direct input in local plans to grow jobs," she said.

Mr de Brenni met with business leaders in the city on Sunday night who flagged changes in the retail sector as of key concern.

The Member for Rockhampton, Barry O'Rourke, said promoting central Queensland's liveability and highlighting the beaches and the reef would give people an incentive to move.

"One of the things we really do need to focus on is trying to attract and retain staff," he said.

A third round of forums will be held across rural and regional locations including the Wide Bay, Burnett and Fraser Coast region in May.