Article – Community to have say on northern Australia's development

31 March 2014
Allyson Horn and Melissa Maddison
ABC News
Residents in north Queensland will this week be given the chance to share their vision for the development of northern Australia.
A joint select committee will hold several public hearings in areas including Mackay, Townsville and Mount Isa.
The hearings will visit the Bowen and the Burdekin tomorrow and Townsville on Wednesday.
The Government is asking residents and community groups to contribute their thoughts on increasing investment and development in the north.
It says the hearings are a chance for local groups and residents to share their wish list for development and key projects.
The Member for Dawson, George Christensen, says upgrading the Whitsunday Coast Airport to international standard will be discussed.
He says having the first hearing in Mackay highlights the importance of the region in developing northern Australia.
“With the connection to the resources sector, the connection to agriculture,” he said.
“We’re going to the Whitsundays as well and there’s obviously a connection to tourism there, so we are a well-placed region to look at for potential development and that’s what it’s all about.”
Mr Christensen, who is a committee member, says the region should take advantage of the growth of the Asian middle class.
“Increased income, increased tastes and wanting more and more that we can actually provide in terms of agriculture, tourism, in terms of education and services,” he said.
“So there’s plenty of opportunities and because of our close proximity this is why it’s important that northern Australia takes centre stage.”
CQUniversity professor Pierre Viljoen will make a submission to the committee later this morning.
He says he hopes the Mackay hearing shows that central Queensland is an important part of northern Australia.
“That they recognise the strength of industry and community around this region and the contribution that institutions like CQUniversity can make to that broader, northern Australia strategy,” he said.
Professor Viljoen says it is well placed to take advantage of the policy’s focus on developing the tertiary education sector as an economic driver but he says there are some challenges that need to be overcome.
“I guess really getting that bedded down and really collaborating across all the education institutions that would be servicing northern Australia would be one of the challenges but that’s something that I’m really looking forward to working on,” he said.
Courtesy of ABC News