Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) Mayor Paul Antonio has delivered the 2020 State of the Region address. The annual presentation, titled ‘Our Resilient Region’, was delivered at a Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise event to an audience of the Region’s business, industry, government and community leaders.
Mayor Antonio said it is nearly impossible to know where our economy stands, with the world turned upside down because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“The pandemic-induced economic downturn will seriously challenge the Toowoomba Region’s decade-long run of unprecedented growth,” Mayor Antonio said.
“Research by the **National Institute of Economic and Industry Research shows that our economy will suffer. However, it will generally suffer less than the economies of regional Queensland, Queensland and our national economy.
“There is no doubt that job losses and lost productivity due to the Coronavirus lockdown will affect regional, state and national economies.
“I am determined that the challenges of COVID-19 will not ultimately define this term of Council and our Region.
“Council remains open for business, but importantly, will continue to engage with our communities about the legacy we are leaving for future generations.”
We have seen disasters before
Mayor Antonio said the Toowoomba Region had seen its fair share of natural disasters.
“In the past 12 months, we have faced drought, bushfire, minor floods and a global pandemic,” Mayor Antonio said.
“We are a resilient Region, and now more than ever is a time for our community to come together to rebuild, once the ills of the global pandemic have passed.
“I’m optimistic that our Region has the resolve and the broad base from which we will see a strong rebound and a return to more normal activity with the right support measures.”
Our economic strength
Mayor Antonio said the breadth of our regional economy is one of our greatest strengths.
“Historically, regional growth is aided by the public sector and the new pioneers from our private sector, who are shaping the industries of the future,” Mayor Antonio said.
“Our internationally capable airport, Pilot Academy, data centre, intensive horticulture projects and Agtech investments underline the confidence of private investment in the Toowoomba Region.
“These new industries add value to our rich traditions of agricultural and our Region’s role as a service centre for education, health and, importantly, the retail sector.
“On top of this, the recently approved Regional Trade Distribution Centre at Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, second weekly freight service to Hong Kong and Singapore Airlines trial, a new CBD hotel and the early planning around a new Toowoomba Hospital will enhance the project pipeline.
“I hope that very soon, we will have a clear State Government decision for the New Hope Group on the expansion of the New Acland Coal Mine near Oakey.”
A strategic hub ready for investment
Mayor Antonio said Council was launching into the first year of a four-year journey and was determined to seize the opportunities for our Region.
“During this Council term, we would see the start of the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail line,” Mayor Antonio said.
“It will include the most significant local construction project ever undertaken in our Region, the $5 billion inland rail tunnel project to be drilled right through our Toowoomba Range.
“Alongside this nation-building infrastructure, we will also see the creation of complementary projects, such as Interlink SQ and investment in our Toowoomba Trade Gateway.
“The $1.6 billion Toowoomba Bypass improves access to the Toowoomba Trade Gateway, Wellcamp Airport and future intermodal hubs attached to Inland Rail and highlights the strategic importance of the Toowoomba Region as a significant transport and logistics hub.
“Already, new investors are looking to Toowoomba as a strategic transport and logistics hub. This new Inland Port will create not hundreds of jobs, but thousands.”
Despite COVID-19 challenges
Mayor Antonio said the pandemic is not the only challenge we would face during this term.
He said: “As a Council, our collective goals must address many and varied tasks, including:
- Water security for our whole Region,
- A renewed planning scheme,
- Investing in roads of regional significance,
- Creating an environment that encourages people from all over the world to live, work, play and study in our Region,
- Community infrastructure catering to our population growth, such as libraries, art galleries, community halls and swimming pools,
- Increase the tourist visitor numbers to our Region and build on the success of our premier event, the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers,
- Council’s Waste Management Strategy will grow in importance as we try to drive home the message to reduce, re-use and recycle, and
- Delivering all this in a financially sustainable way.”
Council’s Budget investing in our future
Mayor Antonio said local governments are community builders. Our response to the pandemic sets out to help our community rebuild from this unprecedented event.
“The Budget was delivered earlier than usual this year to give confidence to the community and provide a positive financial outlook for the future,” Mayor Antonio said.
“Our capital works program this year includes a $165 million regular 12-month calendar of capital works and a dedicated $50 million Pandemic Response Investment program.
“The $50 million works program will see 64 accelerated projects made available to the private sector. The program will be delivered through our procurement arrangements to help local businesses that employ local people supporting local families who live in the Region.
“As part of the Pandemic Response Investment, $12.8 million has been allocated for building renewals and upgrades, $275,000 for plant and equipment, $16.5 million for road and bridge network upgrades, $10.1 million for facility renewal and upgrades, $980,000 for wastewater infrastructure upgrades and $9.2 million for water infrastructure upgrades.
“Some of the projects in the Pandemic Response Investment program include:
- Clubhouse amenities at Nell E Robinson Park,
- Yarraman and Millmerran pool upgrades,
- Kingsthorpe Recreation Reserve upgrade,
- Cambooya Hall renewal program,
- Footpath renewal in Crows Nest,
- Landfill rehabilitation at Brookstead, Pilton and Quinalow,
- Waste Management Facility upgrades at Millmerran, Yarraman and the Southern Growth Corridor,
- Cooby and Cressbrook Dam upgrades, and
- Meringandan West Trunk Water Mains upgrade.”
Procurement focus on local business
Mayor Antonio said Council would continue to play its part to offer extra support to local firms and operators through its Procurement policy.
“Stimulating local employment was one of the most constructive and immediate ways we could help revive our regional economy,” Mayor Antonio said.
“Council’s amended Procurement policy allows us to:
- Seek quotes from local suppliers only for procurement under $200,000 (where possible),
- Give local suppliers an additional 10% price variance for purchases up to $50,000,
- Give local suppliers an additional 5% price variance for purchases greater than $50,000 but less than $200,000, and
- Continue to follow the public tender or contractual arrangement exceptions contained within Local Government Regulations for procurement with an expected value greater than $200,000.
“Council will give a further 2% price advantage to local suppliers in regional areas for anything up to $200,000.”
A focus on Water Security
Mayor Antonio said this year’s Budget had a significant focus on renewing water and waste infrastructure throughout the Region.
“Council is responsible for a water supply network of more than 2,046km of water pipelines that service 62,400 residential, commercial and Council properties,” Mayor Antonio said.
“Our focus on water security sees a continuing reliance on our water supply insurance policy, the Wivenhoe Pipeline.
“Council is working with other levels of government to plan for alternative water sources to cater for longer-term needs.
“We are working with the state government on the feasibility of a southern pipeline that will supply water to Cambooya, Nobby, Greenmount and Clifton as well as connect to Warwick.”
Advocating for our Region
Mayor Antonio said the State Government has always been a significant investor in the Toowoomba Region.
“In the lead-up to the State Election, our Council would outline the significant local, regional and national projects that are priorities for the Toowoomba Region,” Mayor Antonio said.
“Our Region will be advocating for:
- a sustainable financial model for local government,
- Investment in roads of regional significance for industry and to accommodate future growth, as well as investment in infrastructure that will make us more resilient to natural disasters,
- Investment in community facilities catering to a growing Region,
- Investment in Water Security, and
- Economic investment in infrastructure for the Railway Parklands PDA.
“Local government cannot be left to shoulder the full cost of providing essential infrastructure to our growing communities, in addition to meeting residents’ rising expectations across our other activities.”
Investing in our city heart
Mayor Antonio said Council was continuing to support and invest in the growth of the Toowoomba CBD, including the Railway Parklands Priority Development Area (PDA).
“The broader Toowoomba CBD, incorporating the existing Toowoomba Hospital and PDA, employs 18,000 workers and generates more than $2 billion in value-add,” Mayor Antonio said.
“Our CBD’s importance is highlighted by the completion of more than 40 projects valued at more than $850 million over the past 10 years.
“Council alone has invested more than $100 million in city-wide projects, including the City Library, Railway Goods Shed, Outer Circulating Road (Victoria Street extension) and Kwong Sang Walk.
“Council’s Temporary Toowoomba CBD Development Incentives Policy encourages larger-scale, quality new development and investment across the CBD and PDA; especially for the adaptive re-use of heritage-listed buildings.
“A new hospital would strengthen Toowoomba’s standing as a significant regional health hub and will unlock additional investment at the city’s northern entrance. Its significance to South West Queensland should not be overlooked.”
Thanking our frontline health workers
Mayor Antonio thanked the Region’s frontline health workers.
“While Australians are accustomed to natural disasters, few of us have experienced the incredible sequence of events that unfolded in the past six months.
“Our dedicated health workers have fronted up day and night right through the pandemic. Tonight, I pay them and all their various helpers a special tribute for keeping us safe in a time of great disruption and distress.”
Partnerships a pointer to progress
Mayor Antonio said our association with the Council of Mayors South East Queensland would continue to yield significant benefits.
“Through the leadership of former Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk, we saw the beginnings of the 2032 Olympics bid. I will ensure our Region is well-positioned to benefit from projects associated with the bid,” Mayor Antonio said.
“Irrespective of the bid’s success, there are longer-term benefits for the member councils through the 45-minute region plan that is linked to a fast rail connection with Brisbane.
“Our partnership with the SEQ Council of Mayors also saw the creation of the idea for an SEQ City Deal.
“A City Deal has the potential to facilitate new funding agreements that could deliver projects and infrastructure that the individual Council members alone could not achieve.”
Mayor Antonio said Council was determined to overcome the effects of the global pandemic.
“We cannot do this alone. It will require the assistance of higher levels of government as well as partner organisations, such as TSBE, the Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce and Industry and their regional counterparts,” Mayor Antonio said.
“Our best years are ahead of us. By working together we can rebuild our Region.”
To view projects that are included the $50 million Pandemic Response Investment program go to www.tr.qld.gov.au/budget
Caption: Shane Charles, Chairman of the Board-TSBE, Mayor Paul Antonio and Ali Davenport, Chief Executive Officer – TSBE
** National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR) Version 1.1 (May 2020). ©2020 Compiled and presented in economy.id by .id the population experts. – https://economy.id.com.au/toowoomba/covid19