The Remote Area Planning and Development Board is yet to receive a response to its business plan for the former Longreach Pastoral College from the state government.
Submitted at the end of July, RAPAD chairman Tony Rayner said the western Queensland group of councils was eagerly awaiting a response, and to meet with the government to discuss the funding required to make the plan viable.
Using the analogy of a shopping centre renting out retail space, Cr Rayner said the group was looking at what could be leased out while still providing an overall training focus.
While not revealing the details of the business analysis undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers of what it would take to run the college for the next five years, Cr Rayner said government funding would be needed to establish a new training entity.
“The concept is to include both a traditional training entity but to broaden it to something multiple users could use,” he said. “Examples could be to rent out the dormitory space, and the slaughteryard is already in use by a local business.”
It was announced in June that Erin and Jed Marks, who have run BF Savage and Co butchery in Longreach since April 2019, had entered into a two-year agreement to occupy and develop the site with its abattoir facilities and holding yards.
Cr Rayner said RAPAD was very interested in running the overall facility but wasn’t interested in taking on a financial burden.
“We will need a level of support until it can be established and become viable,” he said.
All state Agriculture Minister Mark Furner would say was that the business case from RAPAD had been received and was being considered by the government.
Opposition agriculture spokesman Tony Perrett said it had been more than 20 months since Labor announced that Longreach and Emerald pastoral and agricultural training colleges would close, and eight months since the last students finished, but no-one was any closer to knowing the future of the colleges.
“To make matters worse, $7 million has been spent implementing Labor’s college closure yet there is still nothing to show for it,” he said. “At a time when Queensland has the worst unemployment rate in the nation, young people in regional Queensland need access to training so they can get the skills they need for jobs in agriculture.”
Cr Rayner said RAPAD appreciated COVID-19 management and the upcoming state election were priorities but the future of the former pastoral college was very important for the western Queensland region.
“It’s one of the biggest infrastructure assets in western Queensland and it’s currently mothballed.
“It will be part of the recovery for the state and that’s all the more reason to invest in it.”
Mr Furner said decisions and announcements about the former QATC Emerald campus “will be made in due course”.