Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi believes a regional quarantine hub could prove the solution to the region’s crippling seasonal worker shortage. Picture: Bianca Hrovat
Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi believes a regional quarantine hub could prove the solution to the region’s crippling seasonal worker shortage. Picture: Bianca Hrovat

SDRC responds to proposal for Toowoomba quarantine hub

Southern Downs Regional Council has thrown their support behind the proposal for a Toowoomba quarantine hub, with hopes it will alleviate the seasonal worker shortage crushing the region's farmers.

The State Government-backed proposal from the Wagner family would see a 1000-room accommodation facility built adjacent to Wellcamp Airport.

International flights would land at the Toowoomba airstrip with passengers transported directly to the facility on dedicated buses, with all staff to live on-site and a testing area included.

For Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi, a major quarantine hub located only an hour from the region could be the key to getting desperately needed seasonal workers back onto farms.

"We can bury our heads in the sand if we want to, but the cold hard reality is there is a labour shortage," Cr Pennisi said.

"This year (farmers) have a little bit of water to boost their income back up again, and it would be a terrible shame if they've got the food to harvest, but not the labour to take it off.

"My understanding is that there's a substantial amount of people overseas that are qualified to come over here, but the inhibitor is the quarantine."

With Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirming his government was considering the Toowoomba option as a "supplementary capacity" to the existing hotel quarantine system, Cr Pennisi didn't rule out another hub for the Southern Downs.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be private. My personal view is there's an option there to pool our resources as a local government and put a centre between us strategically," he said.

"We bring horses from overseas and they go through a quarantine process, we import all sorts of things that go through a quarantine process. If it's run right, it will be fine.

"I can't speak for outside the Southern Downs, but I think it would be supported and accepted with open arms by our food producers."

Despite support from local governments, the proposal has recently come under fire for a lack of detail in where any COVID-19 patients would be treated.

 

 

 

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