WHAT WE NEED: Projects to boost Banana Shire
EMPTY shops and quiet streets are becoming an all too familiar sight in towns across the Banana Shire in the grips of drought and economic downturn.
Like many other rural areas, Biloela and the surrounds are in desperate need of business and industry development to make the area thrive again.
The Central Telegraph spoke with some key figures in the community to get a read on some current and possible projects to boost the region’s economy.
Mark Simpson from Ray White Biloela said that the jury is out on if the proposed Biloela Shoppingworld expansion to include a discount department store, enhanced food court and additional speciality stores would make a sustained positive impact on the housing and rental market.
“As soon as that happens the better, the more shops we have the more it keeps locals in not only Biloela but all our towns shopping in our region,” Mr Simpson said.
“It wouldn’t affect short term on sale prices but it would perhaps increase demand in the short term.
“It’s money in the town which is great but it won’t have a major impact on the real estate market in the short term.”
Owner and operator of Biloela B & S Kitchens for the past 26 years, Jason Williams believes that small investments and the upgrading and maintenance of existing facilities in the shire will pave the way for larger scale projects down the track.
“I’ve lived and worked in most communities across this shire and sadly they have shrunk in recent years for a variety of reasons,” Mr Williams said.
“If we can keep our facilities up top standard and improve on them we have a town where people want to stay.
“I’m hearing chatter for example about a water park for Biloela but are people actually taking these ideas to council and seeing if it is feasible?”
Callide Dawson Chamber of Commerce president Steve Bates from Steve’s Barber shop said that with council elections approaching in March we could see a number of new councillors elected with fresh ideas and zeal to make a difference.
“Business leaders need to also have their say and to pitch ideas to council for new projects in the area,” Mr Bates said.
“I’d say to the local community if you’ve got an idea pitch it, council will listen to you.”
Mr Williams said there’s a feeling of optimism among business owners he talks to and said any economic development will be driven by spending power of the farming community.
“It’s quiet here don’t get me wrong and this town relies on the farming community and if you’re in drought and the farmers don’t spend money that means nobody is spending a lot of money,” Mr Williams said.
“I’d hate to start business up today as a small businessman but by the same token if you don’t have a go you’ll never know.
“I’d like to see us sustain what we have here and create a better environment for industry to set up shop here.
“That’s about talking to people and finding out what they want in the town.”
The Banana Shire Council said the shire has a diverse range of businesses and more developments are always encouraged and will be supported by council to the extent that is possible within the context of council’s role as a local government.
Callide MP Colin Boyce said the coal industry must continue to develop across the Callide electorate in order to keep towns Biloela viable and give people money to spend at the local shops.
“I’d like to see the Nathan Gorge dam built at Taroom to increase agricultural production,” Mr Boyce said.
“Open up the Glencore mine at Wandonan and build the railway line from Wandonan to Banana to create the missing link in the inland railway system from Melbourne to Brisbane, Brisbane to Gladstone and create the loop.”
Mr Boyce is particularly fixated that more water infrastructure is needed to bring more visitors and prompt families to relocate to the Banana Shire.
“We saw Faribairn dam built in Emerald in the 70s and the irrigation scheme started there and the town of Emerald exploded,’ Mr Boyce said.
“There’s no reason why that couldn’t happen with the Nathan Gorge Dam.
“It would increase tourism through camping, fishing boating and agricultural production.”
Some of the major projects currently on the Banana Shire Council’s Development Application register include; a proposed paintball facility on at 123 Meissners Road, proposed grocery and retail shopfront at 38-42 Stopford Street, Baralaba and a combined application for a
service station and food premises on the Burnett Highway in Biloela.