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A "blue print" for the region's future includes several schemes and develops in tourism, farming, jobs and infrastructure. Pictures: FILE

UNVEILED: 25 projects in Whitsunday ‘blueprint for future’

INDUSTRY leaders have mapped out the region’s “blueprint for the future” to attract investment and progress across the Whitsundays.

The Whitsunday Region Priorities Plan for 2020 was endorsed during the ordinary council meeting in Bowen on Wednesday.

The Whitsunday Recovery Taskforce plan outlined key projects and programs to aid in the region’s development and COVID recovery.

Tourism groups, chambers of commerce and advocacy groups worked together to identify the projects, which Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox said was the region’s “blueprint for the future”.

“This has been designed with a lot of community consultation,” he said.

“We cover off not just projects but some of the most critical things that affect everyone within the area.”

The document will be used to lobby for state and federal government assistance as well as provide guidance for the council in the future.

Here are the projects included in the plan:

Whitsunday Marine Centre of Excellence

The project involves using land at the Bowen Marina to establish the Whitsunday Marine Centre of Excellence, a world class marina and shipyard to service a range of vessels from the smallest cruisers up to the largest superyachts.

Time frame: Zero to five years

Status: Investment needed

What’s needed: $5 million to complete a business case, feasibility and predesign works such as environmental, geological investigations, planning and other early works required to attract further project investment.

Total jobs: 580

The Whitsunday Marine Centre of Excellence would be based at Bowen Marina. Picture: FILE
The Whitsunday Marine Centre of Excellence would be based at Bowen Marina. Picture: FILE

Urannah Water Scheme

A new large-scale, irrigation precinct and renewable energy generation scheme located about 90km west of Mackay.

Time frame: Zero to five years

Status: Financial investment case and environmental impact statement progressing

What’s needed: Support to progress the project as a state and national priority with nation building water management benefits.

Total jobs: 1850

Key road upgrades

The committee is calling for immediate support to upgrade roads across the region.

T ime frame: Zero to five years

Status: Critically needing investment

What’s needed: Accelerated project delivery of Hamilton Plains and Goorganga Plains works into 2020-22 and the allocation of at least $250 million over the next five years from the $12.6 billion Bruce Highway Upgrade Program.

This would contribute to fixing potholes and surface damage as well as the installation of median strips, wider verges, more overtaking lanes and barriers along the road between Gumlu and Bloomsbury.

The committee is also calling for the appointment of a North Queensland representative on the Bruce Highway Trust Advisory Council and further funding support for improvements to Shute Harbour Rd, Bowen Development Rd and the Collinsville Missing Link Connection.

Total jobs: 570

Work to reduce flooding at Hamilton Plains on Shute Harbour Rd was identified as a priority. Picture: FILE
Work to reduce flooding at Hamilton Plains on Shute Harbour Rd was identified as a priority. Picture: FILE

Whitsunday Trails

A dirt bike trail that spreads across the wider Whitsunday region.

Time frame: Zero to three years

Status: Detailed design and construction required

What’s needed: $1.8 million to finalise planning and deliver the first stage of the project.

State Government support is required for delivery of the strategy and coordination through the approvals process with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

Total jobs: 46

Economic output: $13,000 from visitors in the first year

Whitsunday Skyway project

A mainland cable car tourism facility to the top of the peak west of and overlooking Airlie Beach.

Time frame: Zero to five years

Status: Approvals needed

What’s needed: Priority project status for government development applications, approvals and recognition as a nationally significant tourism project including consideration of funding to the COVID-19 relief and recovery fund.

Total jobs: 730

The view from the top of the proposed Whitsunday Skyway. Picture: Supplied
The view from the top of the proposed Whitsunday Skyway. Picture: Supplied

Lake Proserpine master plan

Building on the facilities at Lake Proserpine to deliver a diverse range of recreational opportunities both on land and on water.

Time frame: Zero to two years

Status: Master plan stage one of five delivered

What’s needed: $5 million to complete master plan works to create a leading national recreation area to unlock commercial opportunities such as glamping, fishing and walking tours in the reserve.

Total jobs: 23

Food and crop waste processing facility

About 25 per cent of product rots because it doesn’t meet fresh market standards.

The processing facility would help turn waste into other resources.

Time frame: Zero to two years

Status: Feasibility assessment required

What’s needed: $250,000 for a feasibility assessment and business case to develop a facility to fight food waste.

Total jobs: 3200 annually

The committee also prioritised continued work at Lake Proserpine. Photo: Tourism Whitsundays
The committee also prioritised continued work at Lake Proserpine. Photo: Tourism Whitsundays

Agricultural hub

Currently only 8000ha of about 100,000ha of farmable land is used for horticulture in the Whitsunday region.

This project aims to transform the outdated Bowen research facility into a hub for agricultural innovation and research, agribusiness training and technology adoption.

Time frame: Zero to three years

Status: Investment needed

What’s needed: $200,000 to undertake project planning and business case development. And $1 million over three years to support coordination, research and implementation of agricultural technologies by local industry organisations.

Growing region farm gate area upgrades

Infrastructure upgrades to support first and last mile road infrastructure around farm regions, transport and processing areas including biosecurity measures, technologies and other industry improvement infrastructure around farms.

Time frame: Zero to three years

Status: Investment needed

What’s needed: $5 million over three years to implement delivery of capital works.

Mayor Andrew Willcox said plans to build a rocket launch site in Bowen were not just a
Mayor Andrew Willcox said plans to build a rocket launch site in Bowen were not just a "daydream". Picture: Laura Thomas

Launch Whitsundays

Plan to develop a rocket launch site in Bowen.

Time frame: Zero to three years

Status: Feasibility assessment required

What’s needed: Progression of feasibility toward launch pad infrastructure investment, support from federal government to consider usage and partnership investment by Department of Defence in the delivery.

Jobs: 6000 by 2036

Improving digital infrastructure

Growing regional digital connectivity provides capacity for industry to expand, employ, sell and connect in the digital economy.

Time frame: Zero to five years

Status: Investment needed

What’s needed: Accelerated investment to address black spots in the region over the next five years.

Prioritisation of new projects on key transport and tourism travel corridors such as the Bruce Highway, Collinsville to Mt Coolon, Dingo Beach and Whitsunday Island.

Plan to invest in fibre and wireless digital infrastructure to support key industries in agricultural, mining and tourism intensive areas.

$150,000 to establish a number of town centre Wi-Fi projects around community facilities and areas with high visitor numbers.

Reef restoration projects could provide 27 jobs. Picture: GrumpyTurtleCreative
Reef restoration projects could provide 27 jobs. Picture: GrumpyTurtleCreative

Develop Abbot Point state development area master plan

The Abbot Point SDA was established to facilitate large-scale industrial and port-related development of regional, state and national significance.

Time frame: Zero to two years

Status: Master plan critically required

What’s needed: Accelerated development of a 20-year master plan and the establishment of a development committee comprising three levels of government and key stakeholders.

Reef Restoration workers program

The Reef Restoration project will be a key regional activity in the process of helping the recovery and building the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsunday region.

Time frame: Zero to three years

Status: Investment needed

What’s needed: $2.8 million is required to help the Whitsunday region to build on existing underwater art and reef restoration projects and scale up collaborations, knowledge and actions in a challenging COVID-19 climate.

Jobs: 27

The committee called for more health services in Bowen. Picture: File
The committee called for more health services in Bowen. Picture: File

Regional signage and beautification project

Projects to improve regional towns, precincts and facilities such as the Choose Collinsville project, Bowen Harbour surrounds and signage to town entrances and Whitsunday Coast Airport.

Time frame: Zero to three years

Status: Investment needed

What’s needed: Additional $5 million over three years.

Jobs: 23

Bowen Allied Health Services

The council identified Bowen has shortages of key health professionals such as doctors, specialists and carers and these shortages are expected to worsen.

Time frame: Zero to five years

Status: Investment ready

What’s needed: $700,000 to zone and re-purpose existing available commercial premises near Bowen hospital to facilitate accommodation of specialist medical services in Bowen on a regular service basis.

$300,000 incentive program for medical professionals to establish business in Bowen delivering regular specialist services.

Extending JobKeeper and helping residents find work were also among priorities. Picture: File.
Extending JobKeeper and helping residents find work were also among priorities. Picture: File.

Collinsville childcare centre

A childcare centre would add to the liveability of the region and support a strong economic base as new workers and their families are attracted to the region.

Glencore, QCoal and Whitsunday Regional Council have committed funding and the project is ready to be completed with regulatory approval needed for the site on Education Queensland property.

Time frame: 12 months

Status: Regulatory approval needed

What’s needed: State government approvals and regulatory support to accelerate development.

JobKeeper extension

REMPLAN reported 38 per cent of businesses in Whitsunday LGA were registered for JobKeeper in May 2020.

Airlie-Whitsunday SA2 is the worst affected area in the region with more than 50 per cent of businesses registered.

The committee identified it was essential to regional communities and businesses that this lifeline is extended until normal business returns.

Status: Continued funding critical

Time frame: Until normal business resumes

What’s needed: Further extension of the JobKeeper payment considered to regional businesses most impacted by the loss of international tourism and events until a return to normal business conditions.

The committee identified waiving the GBRMPA permit would help operators. PICTURE: Brendan Radke
The committee identified waiving the GBRMPA permit would help operators. PICTURE: Brendan Radke

Booking agent inquiry

Some Whitsunday tour operators were not paid for tours conducted in February and March before COVID-19.

The committee argued widespread reports of high commissions, late and nil payment as well as price gouging were rife in the travel booking agent industry.

Time frame: 12 months

Status: Investigation required

What’s needed: Government-led inquiry into issues within the tourism booking industry including guarantee of payment issues, commission models and unethical and collusive business practices with the intent to establish legislated measures or payment guarantee mechanisms to improve the sector’s access to fair payment for services provided.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park permit moratorium

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Queensland Department of Environment and Science approve permits through a joint permission system.

The committee found “widespread reports of permit ‘rorting’ is occurring and honest tourism operators are being let down by the system”.

Time frame: Zero to two years

Status: Action critically required

What’s needed: Suspension of additional new permit allocations and review of the marine park permit system involving input from local stakeholders.

Consideration provided to the value of permits for existing tourism businesses, how permit numbers can be regulated to improve post COVID-19 recovery and allow for future sustainable growth of the marine tourism industry.

Improving the facade of streets across the region was tagged as a way to help draw more people. Picture: File
Improving the facade of streets across the region was tagged as a way to help draw more people. Picture: File

Main street business revitalisation incentive

A targeted incentive program that will encourage business owners to improve their street appeal and lift the aesthetics of the region’s town centres.

Time frame: Zero to three years

Status: Investment needed

What’s needed: $200,000 a year over three years to support an incentive program that encourages small business to refurbish and enhance shop fronts, minor building aesthetics and facades including new businesses that wish to establish on a previously vacant premises.

Underwritten insurance program

A push to make insurance more affordable and to stem the growing rate of non-insurance.

Time frame: 12 months

Status: Action critically required

What’s needed: Establish a government fund and regulation measures to mitigate the onus of insurance risk being passed onto business and consumers in insurance policies due to catastrophes and natural disasters.

The committee pushed to make insurance more affordable. Picture: Peter Carruthers
The committee pushed to make insurance more affordable. Picture: Peter Carruthers

Further community support funding

More support to help educate and support communities to change the conversation around domestic and family violence.

Time frame: Zero to five years

Status: Investment needed

What’s needed: Additional $1 million over five years to support established local organisations deliver support across domestic violence, mental health and substance abuse and specifically address gaps in local service delivery.

Job seeker to industry program

Assistance for job seekers and industry to increase employment and decrease workforce issues.

Time frame: Zero to five years

Status: Investment needed

What’s needed: Immediate inclusion in the $62.8 million Local Jobs Program.

$200,000 for a marketing campaign to highlight job opportunities, career pathways and dispel occupational misconceptions as well as provide support for jobseekers to overcome initial workforce barriers.

The committee prioritised keeping flights strong in and out of the region. Picture: Supplied
The committee prioritised keeping flights strong in and out of the region. Picture: Supplied

Small business recovery advisers

Targeted, on the ground support to help business navigate through the impacts of COVID-19.

Time frame: Zero to two years

Status: Investment needed

What’s needed: Immediate inclusion in the Queensland Government’s $1.2 million Business Support Officer Program.

$700,000 over two years from the Federal Government to assist local business, chambers of commerce and industry groups develop business planning strategies, access stimulus, funding and pivot business direction for a post COVID-19 economy.

Expanded aviation and destination marketing subsidy program

Maintaining vital links in aviation for the tourism and business sector.

Time frame: Zero to three years

Status: Investment needed

What’s needed: $3 million over the next three years to market and subsidise the re-establishment of visitation to the region.

Funds will be used to help underwrite regular air service schedules, attractive flights and accommodation packaging arrangements and further targeted marketing activities.