Region seeks people boom
THE Bundaberg region must target population growth to help share the financial load after the amalgamation of the four councils two years ago, council finance portfolio leader Greg Barnes believes.
Cr Barnes said the region’s rates base was too small to drive the kind of development the area needed to grow.
“If you look at the figures, Brisbane has a population density of 350 people per square kilometre.
“In the Bundaberg region it’s 14 people per square kilometre.
“But at the end of the day the roads don’t get any shorter and the grass keeps growing,” he said.
Cr Barnes said the main thing that attracted new residents to the region was the lifestyle, and it was important to protect that attraction even as the population was predicted to grow by 50,000 people in the next 15 years..
“We’ve got to be careful about planning and we’ve got to have jobs for them,” he said.
“Economic development and job creation go hand in hand with population growth.”
A member of the Burnett Shire Council for eight years before being voted onto Bundaberg Regional Council, Cr Barnes said there were encouraging signs the region was on the right track.
“Unemployment in the late 1990s was over 16%; now indications are it is down to about 6%,” he said.
While that was still too high, the improvement showed the region was gaining some confidence.
“I think the amalgamation was a good thing and I’m confident there are going to be significant efficiencies come out of it, but they are not going to be realised in this term of council,” he said.
Asked to rate himself out of 10, Cr Barnes said he gave 100% for passion and commitment, but he would leave it up to the voters to rate him.
For making the hard decisions on amalgamation, he gave the council eight or nine out of 10.