Regional Australia Institute predicts $10 billion boom for Toowoomba and Surat Basin

The Darling Downs’ economy is predicted to grow by about $10 billion by 2030. (Brisbane Times)

There’s far more to a predicted $10 billion boom in Toowoomba and the Surat Basin than mining, says the head of the independent think tank working with leaders to unlock its potential.

Resources have dominated much of the discussion about the Darling Downs’ economy recently, especially with the world’s first export of controversial coal seam gas coming from the Surat Basin in December.

Regional Australia Institute deputy chief executive officer Jack Archer has been speaking to mayors, business leaders and other stakeholders in the region this week about how they can capitalise on that and other opportunities in the region.

He said it was important not to overstate the role of resources in the region’s development.

“It’s about growing the things that sit on top of that mining base,” he said.

Transport … is connected into that, but agriculture and manufacturing and the city itself are also really important for the economy, so mining and mining investment is really only one part of the picture.”

The $10 billion figure comes from an RAI project to model economic growth for all regions around the country from 2011 to 2030.

It represents the upper range of the prediction, but even the most pessimistic outlook would see the economy grow by about $8.3 billion – more than double what it is now.

With a general idea of the region’s potential in mind, representatives from Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise approached the RAI to help ensure the region didn’t squander its opportunities.

“We know there’s opportunity that comes with brand new world class infrastructure but we haven’t as a region sat back and said what are we going to be able to take advantage of now that we have that infrastructure?” CEO Shane Charles said.

“We probably just needed the assistance of someone to coordinate the regions and we needed someone with the expertise to be able to crunch the data and tell us objectively what our weaknesses are and what our strengths are.”

Mr Archer said Toowoomba and the Maranoa and Western Downs regions, which made up much of the Surat Basin, were in unique positions nationally, with opportunities in not just mining but also agriculture, manufacturing, education, finance, health and logistics…

Read more by Jorge Branco, Brisbane Times 21 January 2015

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