White water kayaks at Wappa Falls, Yandina.
White water kayaks at Wappa Falls, Yandina. Jason Dougherty

Whitewater rafting could work in Rocky

Aspire CQ, by Warren Acutt.

WHEN a person in a capital city tells their partner there is a job opportunity in Rockhampton do you want to move there, what words do you think the partner will immediately associate with Rocky?

Bull statues, flood and (the obvious one at the moment) heat will quite likely feature top on many lists. Arguably not big reasons to move here.

Do any of our attractions really challenge these three? Botanic Gardens (zoo), Riverside, Heritage Village, Mt Archer, mountain bike tracks, fishing the Fitzroy, Kershaw Gardens? Despite these attractions along with affordable housing, quality education, sport and health facilities, retail diversity and the Great Western Hotel, Rockhampton is not an easy sell.

Yes, I'm opening myself to being criticised as being negative, but to solve a problem you first need to admit there is a problem. We need something big enough to at least be mentioned along with the bulls, flood and heat or even better, surpass them.

White water kayaks at Wappa Falls, Yandina.  Brett Aramini makes his way down
Photo Jason Dougherty / Sunshine Coast Daily
White water kayaks at Wappa Falls, Yandina. Brett Aramini makes his way down Photo Jason Dougherty / Sunshine Coast Daily Jason Dougherty

One I like to put out there is a world class whitewater park. Located at the top end of Victoria Park, within walking distance to accommodation and the CBD, utilising the showgrounds for car-parking. To be used for entertainment and training. Would it be a prudent decision for a private investor, possibly not.

Would it be an attraction that makes people think of Rockhampton as the place where you can go whitewater rafting, as opposed to (or up there with) bull statues, flood and heat? I think so.

Would it, packaged with the mountain bike tracks, Mt Archer zip lines, rowing/fishing the Fitzroy, 30-minute drive to unspoilt beaches, make Rockhampton more appealing as a place to move to for job opportunities? I argue so, thus providing the region a positive return.

Where are the job opportunities? Bypass, new(er) bridge, Rookwood, Galilee Basin mines appear to be the big-ticket items in next year's federal election campaign. The merits of each have been argued and will continue to be argued, I imagine for years after the election.

However, the jobs each of these projects provide will attract more people to move here. What will keep them though after the project is built? Consider what happened to Gladstone after the Curtis Island LNG plants were completed. Have we learnt anything from that, which will be put into practice?

Stadium, conference centre, Mt Archer chairlift, Super Cars, Great Keppel Resort, art gallery are all great to have on an election wish-list, but would any or all be the decider in a family relocating and staying here? Possibly, no doubt it is a package of factors that determines if people do relocate. However, in this age of goldfish attention spans, getting them to start the package search needs one big, positive trigger.

A trigger that a person quickly associates with the word "Rockhampton” and gets one interested in the possibilities, leading them to investigate. A whitewater park could prove to be that trigger.

One can argue government money would be better spent on health and education, but if we can't attract more people to move here for the long term, we will be forever looking for short-term fixes that might cost us half an airport to boost our economy.

It will be interesting to see if any of the candidates in next year's election address long-term sustainability strategies for the region or just focus on short-term construction jobs.

P.S. To all the volunteer firefighters, thank you. Hopefully this rain provides the break you all deserve.