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Toowoomba - Resilient, vibrant, flourishing

Damian Christie believes that Toowoomba today is a vibrant, flourishing destination - a far cry from the 2011 flash floods that devastated the city and the region.

Welcome to Toowoomba, which this month hosts the IQA’s 60th annual conference! Part of the Darling Downs region in southern Queensland, the “Garden City” (famous for its 150 parks and gardens) is one of the hubs of the infrastructure boom sweeping Australia’s east coast.

Toowoomba is Australia’s 16th largest city, with a population of around 115,000 and growing. In recent years, the city has opened Australia’s first privately funded aerodrome – the Brisbane West Wellcamp Airport, owned by construction materials giant The Wagner Group. The broader Toowoomba region is home to two major infrastructure projects: the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing, the ring road due for completion in late 2018, and a segment of the Inland Rail project (see page 14), which by 2025 will provide a 1700km freight line between Brisbane and Melbourne.

These state and national projects, along with local demand for construction materials, will keep quarries in the Toowoomba and Darling Downs regions busy for the foreseeable future. Indeed, now seems a good time for operators to enter the local market. There are plenty of quarries in the region for sale (page 11) and there is great potential for growth. The completion of the Inland Rail project could enable local quarries in a decade to expand their markets along the eastern seaboard. With transport by rail more economical than by road and the potential for aggregate to be more competitively priced, it’s conceivable that a Toowoomba quarry could one day supply aggregates for projects in Brisbane and northern New South Wales.

In addition to being a busy infrastructure hub, Toowoomba’s transformation into an inland port and regional aviation centre opens doors for it to become a tourist and commerce destination, to visitors from interstate and China.

In anticipation of this expansion, debate has flared about the century-old Bridge Street Quarry in Prince Henry Heights. Toowoomba Regional Council originally proposed in 2003 that the old site could be converted into parkland – to be called “Etopia” or “Quarry Gardens” – that would incorporate a higher education campus, a waste treatment and recycling facility, renewable energy utilities, sustainable housing, and an eco-hotel and conference centre. Lobbying by local tourism bodies and Queensland rugby league legend Shane Webcke continues to drive this concept. An advocate, Southern Queensland Country Tourism CEO Mary-Clare Power, has argued that the garden concept “would be a spectacular attraction”, especially for Asian tourists keen to take in the “country experience”.

The roadblock, of course, is money – with one local councillor contradicting the Lord Mayor Paul Antonio and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk (both of whom broadly support the concept) and telling her colleagues to “zip it” while the proposal remains underfunded, impracticable and unachievable.

Whatever the future of the Bridge Street Quarry, there is no doubt that Toowoomba today is a vibrant, flourishing destination – a far cry from the decade-long drought and 2011 flash floods that impacted the city and the region. It’s a testament to the resilience of the region and its people that they have never looked back.

I look forward to catching up with as many of you as possible at the conference, which will be held in the iconic Empire Theatre. This historic 1930s, purpose-built art deco venue will provide a spectacular backdrop to the plenary sessions.

Update - 2 October 2017

On 22 September, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced her government would commit $250,000 towards a feasibility study on transforming the Bridge Street Quarry into first-class parkland.

WATCH VIDEO

Rugby league legend Shane Webcke promotes the Quarry Gardens concept.












ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Damian Christie
Editor • Quarry Magazine

Damian Christie is the editor and a chief writer of Quarry magazine. To contact Damian, please click here.








Monday, 23 October, 2017 03:20pm
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