Bernard Salt.
Bernard Salt. Contributed

Demographer Bernard Salt shares vision for Bundy's future

WHAT will Australia and Wide Bay look like by the end of the 2020s?

It is fair question; it is a good question; and the reason it is a good question is because the new decade begins in just nine and a half months.

In a decade's time Australia have another two million residents; our leading trading partner is likely to remain China; the baby boomers will have all but retreated from the workforce; and no doubt there'll be new technology that we haven't even thought about.

Wide Bay including Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Maryborough and Gympie and everywhere in between will remain one of this nation's premier food bowls (producing avocados too, I understand).

This broad agricultural and lifestyle region is in many ways a microcosm of regional Australia.

It's 2019 population of around 296,000 makes it equivalent to an urban mass the scale of Wollongong.

By 2030 this number is expected to rise by 35,000 which is less growth than the region actually recorded over the last decade or so.

New projections released by the State Government in November suggest a slowdown in Hervey Bay's rate of growth during the 2020s.

I am unsure what could be driving this logic as I would have thought there was an increasing market for lifestyle towns like Hervey Bay as baby boomers retire.

If "the Bay” is to slow down I think this is more likely to be a 2030s phenomenon as local boomers... ahem... start to move on to a more ethereal place.

Regardless of the precise projections, Australia as a whole will continue to grow and Bundy, the Bay and Gympie will also grow.

Maryborough will continue its tussle with Hervey Bay for supremacy in matters of commerce and administration.

A bigger Wide Bay with more people of more diverse backgrounds is on the cards by 2030.

The institutions of Wide Bay must now pitch their sights at the 2030 horizon including and especially the region's health and education institutions.

As with many regional centres in Australia there is an outpouring of youth after secondary school in Wide Bay as young people seek to test their mettle in Brisbane and beyond.

All of this, of course, is fine, and in fact is a rite of passage in Australia.

But I think Wide Bay should actively campaign to attract them back with skills, with a partner, and with hopes and aspirations.

Showcase local talent, revere local business and sports people; don't send the message that respect only comes when you make it big "someplace else”.

I say we should be right now focussed on the 10-year future horizon, discussing the kind of society we want for our kids, and then damn well going out there and delivering the future we want.

And I think that what "we” all want is to have opportunity for our kids so that they don't feel compelled to go elsewhere.

Some will. Some won't come back.

But let's celebrate those who do come back.

Let's celebrate those who build a business locally and who invest their youth and energy into our community.

It is our job-as middle-aged managers and administrators-to create the society that will enable the next generation to flourish locally.

You know, I want the Wide Bay Tribe of 2030 to have a bit of "attitude” about the region they've created.

Our hospitals and our educational institutions must be best in class.

Our airports and roads and housing and power and townscapes should be as good as anywhere in Australia.

And, damn it, if Toowoomba can airfreight agribusiness product direct into Hong Kong then we can do a deal with Maroochydore to airfreight our avocados into Chengdu and Chongqing.

We should not be, and we will not be, immodest in our hopes and our dreams for the future of our region.



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