Problems and Opportunities

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-By John Boley

Gladstone is a modern urbanised city in Central Queensland located on the eastern seaboard of Australia, some 550 km by road north of Brisbane and 100 km southeast of Rockhampton. The Gladstone Regional Council area is a growing residential area, with significant rural, rural residential and industrial areas.

The Council area encompasses a total land area of about 10,500 square kilometres, including national parks, state forests, coastline, beaches and islands. The main urban centre is Gladstone, with numerous other small townships, including Agnes Water, Benaraby, Boyne Island, Calliope, Miriam Vale, Seventeen Seventy and Tannum Sands. Rural land is used mainly for cattle grazing, with some grain growing, fodder cropping, and timber and tropical fruit production.

Named after the British statesman William Gladstone, secretary of state for the colonies from 1845 to 1846, Gladstone makes a significant contribution to Queensland and the Australian economy. In 2009-10, 30 per cent of Queensland’s exports by tonnage carried by sea were traded through the Port of Gladstone. This trade represented by value some 20 per cent of Queensland’s exports and 4.4 per cent of Australia’s total exports. Gladstone is Queensland’s major industrial location with established world class industries and infrastructure and linkages to international markets by sea, land and air.

The area is subject to massive change as some of Australia’s – and the world’s – biggest resources projects (particularly but not only LNG) are constructed. Gladstone, its authorities acknowledge, faces not only opportunities but problems in managing this change. (For details of just some of the projects in the area that are awaiting approval, underway or just beginning construction, see the list compiled by the Gladstone Economic and Industry Development Board at: http://www.gladstoneindustry.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Dev-Rev-Matrix-August-2011.pdf)

Current growth challenges for government, industry and the community include housing, health, transport logistics and skills. There have been some recent announcements in these areas and the planning is ongoing, while satisfying demand for services and social infrastructure including affordable housing is being addressed as a priority by government in partnership with the LNG industry.

Planning for growth progresses the economy, provides jobs, delivers services, benefits the community and will improve the amenity as Gladstone becomes the powerhouse of Australia’s eastern seaboard and a true 21st century industrial city.

Central to what might be called the ‘problem’ side is dealing with the social impact of increasing industrialisation and population in the region. Planning is essential and has been carried out thoroughly, and the Gladstone Social Infrastructure Strategic Planning Study addressed the likely future needs of society in the region in terms that would be of more than passing interest to anyone in the construction industry, given the amount of building work likely to be commissioned in the next few years to satisfy demand for housing and social infrastructure, let alone the $60 billion of current development work in the oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors.

If all current major projects proceeded to full commercial development within the timeframes proposed, said the study, the population for the Gladstone region could double in size by 2031 to potentially 100,000 plus residents. In planning for new social infrastructure, it is important to recognise the unique demographic characteristics of the Gladstone region, namely:

  • a strong family oriented community, with a relatively high proportion of younger people, working adults and families with children;
  • a lower proportion of people over 50;
  • relatively low proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people from non-English speaking backgrounds, although many nationalities are represented;
  • a transient population, with 27.2 per cent of the population being based at another address five years previously (leading to a reported shortage of both housing and temporary accommodation such as hotels, motels and B&Bs for those coming to the area to work);
  • relatively high incomes;
  • a work oriented community, with a low unemployment rate and high labour force participation rate;
  • a high proportion of separate houses and a low proportion of flats/units;
  • and low vacancy rates, resulting in high rents for flats and decreasing housing affordability and a high degree of car ownership/dependence.

At a social planning catchment level, the following key characteristics were identified in the study:

  • Gladstone city has an ageing central business district/inner city ring with relatively high levels of disadvantage, higher ethnic diversity, very high proportions of households renting and low vehicle availability. There is an outer ring of family oriented suburbs ranging from young children to older families and comprised of a high proportion of working age adults, people buying or renting homes, low levels of disadvantage and high vehicle availability;
  • Agnes Water has an older population with a relatively low proportion and numbers of children, relatively high levels of disadvantage and access to one vehicle;
  • Boyne Island/Tannum Sands reflects the Gladstone Regional Council average in many aspects. It has a high proportion of older couple families with children, high vehicle availability, a higher proportion and number of young people and the highest level of advantage of all catchments;
  • Calliope has a mixed population not dissimilar to the Gladstone Regional Council average. It has a high working age population, a level of advantage similar to outer suburbs of Gladstone, and very high car availability;
  • Rural South East/Miriam Vale has an older population and is the least advantaged of all catchments, with high unemployment and low labour force participation;
  • Rural West shares similarities to Rural South East, with an older population, a low level of advantage and high car availability.

The social planning catchments were an important part of the study to determine and plan for social infrastructure needs. Most critical are population projections obtained by catchment area which forecast that all catchments are projected to experience continued growth to 2031. The Boyne Island/Tannum Sands catchment is expected to increase from a population base of currently 10,940 people, to 26,300 at 2031 – almost equivalent to another city the same size as Gladstone.

Calliope will also experience significant and rapid growth, increasing from a base of 3,760 in 2006 to 16,800 people in 2031. Although its overall population will remain relatively low compared to the higher growth catchments, the Agnes Water/Seventeen Seventy catchment is expected to experience high growth from a current 1,790 people to 6,800 permanent residents.

The review of all relevant work previously conducted within the region, the audit of the existing stock of regional social infrastructure, and the benchmarking of the levels of infrastructure provision against comparative regions of similar size, show Gladstone has a strong social infrastructure base.

Industrial development has delivered many benefits to the community. Examples from the study include the level of tertiary education provided, the police staffing levels, ambulance and fire emergency services, library facilities and sporting grounds. For future expansion, a voluntary industry contributions framework has been developed. The mayor, Councillor Gail Sellers, said she was “proud to be a partner in the development of the Social Infrastructure Strategic Plan for the Gladstone region. I fully support the Queensland Government’s proposal to establish the Gladstone Foundation as a regionally based pooled industry fund – it is essential to the successful implementation of the Social Infrastructure Strategic Plan.

“The priorities in social infrastructure facilities and services for the community will no doubt change over time and we will all need to be adept in the future at recognising the changing needs of the community. I believe the proposed arrangements will give confidence to industry whereby each dollar contributed to regional social infrastructure will achieve the best value for money in terms of targeting the true priority areas for new community facilities and services within the Gladstone region.”

Gladstone is becoming known as a good investment location for large scale projects of national and international significance, as evidenced by the major international resource processing and light metal industries that have chosen to establish within the region. If it can keep pace with its increasing population and deliver for the people a matching infrastructure development – housing and associated works – it can become a great place to live.

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

July 14, 2020, 1:01 PM AEST