There are a number of major developments currently in construction and in planning, set to put Toowoomba on the map as a freight and logistics hub.
The Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport is now nearing completion, set to be finished by September this year. Funded and built by the Wagner family, it will be the first privately funded major public airport in Australia and be able to cater for jets as big as Boeing 747s. While it will cater for the ever-expanding population of Toowoomba, the airport will also change the face of the agriculture industry by opening up export avenues and opportunities that did not exist before. It is expected to be catering for up to 1.36 million passengers by year five of operation and contribute $225.6 million by year five to the Gross Regional Product.
The Toowoomba Second Range Crossing will now be delivered, following a long-awaited announcement by the government in January this year. The Bypass, which will provide an alternative route for trucks travelling between Brisbane, Toowoomba and further west, will not only enormously reduce traffic congestion but also majorly benefit businesses. It is expected an increase of annual turnover could be as high as 14.6 per cent in revenue across all industry. It is a project that has long been on the wish list of many residents and business members, and one that has been sorely needed for the region. Registrations of Interest have now been called for construction of the project, with work set to begin in 2015.
The Inland Rail Project could also be a reality, with former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson tasked with heading up the implementation group set to drive the Project forward. The Project is set to deliver a rail line which will create a new future for freight movement in Australia’s eastern states, from Melbourne to the Port of Brisbane through New South Wales. Benefits will include efficient market access for agricultural industries and removing almost 4000 trucks off South East Queensland’s roads. With the Port of Brisbane handling more than $50 billion worth of trade a year and up to 50 per cent of this trade travelling to or emanating from Toowoomba and out west, a long term freight logistics system is a necessity to match this world class port.
The city’s central business district is set to get a major facelift with a $350 million retail centre development. The much anticipated integration of Gardentown Shopping Centre and Grand Central Shopping Centre will increase the combined size of the two centres by approximately 30,000 square metres to create a master-planned and integrated retail, entertainment and leisure destination. Developer QIC Global Real Estate envisions the development will offer a more dynamic retail experience, while keep expenditure within the local economy. Development is expected to create 1500 jobs during construction and about 1000 retail jobs once completed.
Toowoomba has a workforce of 59,815 with the three industries employing the largest percentages of the workforce being health care and social assistance; retail trade; and education and training. The unemployment rate is low at 4.2% for Toowoomba, compared to the state average of 5.9%. For many workers and their families, moving to Toowoomba and the wider Surat Basin is proving to be the recipe for a bright, new future and major boom for established and emerging industries. A key strength of the Toowoomba region is its diverse economic base, offering a range of rewarding employment opportunities. The total value-added by the city’s regional economy is estimated at $7.3 billion, with the top contributors being rental, hiring and real estate services ($825.2 million), mining ($799.4 million) and financial and insurance services ($655.5 million).
Construction is now in full-swing on the three major CSG and LNG projects in the Surat Basin region; BG Group’s Queensland Curtis LNG project, Santos’ project and the Origin ConocoPhillips Australia Pacific LNG joint venture project. It is the upstream work (attendant processing plants and pipelines) of these three approved CSG and LNG projects that is located in the Surat Basin and has not only created thousands of jobs but also benefitted regionally-based businesses who have been able to expand their operations. Many attest the CSG industry has led to long-awaited infrastructure to come to fruition, including the Second Range Crossing and the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport.
The significant coal mine in the Toowoomba region is the New Acland Mine run by the New Hope Group. This mine is currently awaiting approval for a proposed expansion of its operations on the easternmost edge of the Surat Basin within the Toowoomba Regional Council area. The mine is also leading the way with its rehabilitated mined land for cattle. Currently being trialled on grazing cattle, a combination of soil, pasture and cattle fattening tests form the basis of the long term trial to fully understand the impact of the mining operation on grazing land and to strive to return this land to the best possible state post mining.
Agriculture & Export
The Toowoomba region is Queensland’s number one agricultural region, generating approximately $720.5 million in gross value agricultural production in 2012 and providing 3642 jobs totalling around $64 million in salaries and wages. Key outputs include grain, cotton, beef, dairy products, pork and chickens, along with a growing volume of horticulture. With rapid economic and population growth across the Asian region, Australia is witnessing a more rapid change in our end export destinations for packaged and fresh food, than could have been imagined a decade ago. The change has always seemed inevitable but the pace of change is staggering. There is much talk about Asia’s potential to reshape the Australian economy through food imports and it seems this may prove to be particularly relevant for protein food products.
Red meat shipments to China alone have risen by 400% to over 160,000 tonnes in 2012/2013 from around 23,000 tonnes only four years ago. China is now one of Australia’s largest agricultural export destinations and the growth continues. Reports indicate that the growth in demand for food is being driven by Asia’s strong economy, growing population, higher personal incomes, tight supplies and food safety concerns. This provides a real opportunity for food producers in the region, and with the introduction of the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport later this year, export figures will only increase.
Population modelling based on current trends, project the Toowoomba region’s rate of population growth will double, even triple, over the next 18 years. It is conservatively predicted that Toowoomba Regional Council area will be home to nearly 245,000 people by 2031. More optimistic forecasts for the area suggest population growth of up to 70 per cent in the next 18 years. There is no doubting that the city is on the cusp of a major growth spurt with an enormous set of opportunities to come its way. With much-needed infrastructure being constructed or in planning, a booming economy and continuing job growth, Toowoomba is ready to lead the way!