Flinders Shire Council is developing a new industrial area at Hughenden to foster transport and manufacturing business as the sealing of the Hann Highway progresses.
At the same time it has been instrumental in advancing an irrigation project hoped to pave the way for increased agriculture in the region.
The council has been focusing on opportunities for economic diversity since Aurizon took away train driver jobs from Hughenden in December 2016.
Mayor Jane McNamara said the sealing of the Hann Highway (Kennedy Development Rd) would open up new opportunities as the area became a key inland crossroads.
“We have an industrial estate in Hughenden of about 20 blocks and some of those blocks have commercial businesses on them, but Hughenden doesn’t have any heavy industrial blocks, so we are looking to open up an area for heavy industrial activities,” Cr McNamara said.
Cr McNamara said the heavy industry park project was still in the planning stage, with council considering several potential sites.
“We’re hoping to attract manufacturing and transport industries, with the Hann Highway getting closer to being fully sealed from Hughenden to the Atherton Tablelands,” she said.
Meanwhile Cr McNamara said the shire’s planned 15 Mile Intensive Irrigation Project would see the establishment of cold store and loading facilities in Hughenden that could serve primary producers throughout the region.
Flinders Shire Council’s plan for an irrigated agricultural development was recently declared a coordinated project.
This project is estimated to cost $47 million, including transport and logistics infrastructure, and is tipped to generate 70 to 100 full-time jobs.
“This is a pilot project that the Flinders Shire Council is developing so that we can prove to people that the Flinders River is a viable and economic area for agriculture,” Cr McNamara said.
“It would see about 100ha of table grape vineyards, organic horticulture and citrus trees planted,” she said.
“As a council we decided that we really wanted this project to succeed and develop into a new industry for the Flinders Shire. The previous council had secured the land and the area has now been converted to freehold. Our council had to secure the water, which we have achieved over the past two years,” Cr McNamara said.
“Flinders Shire had a 450-megalitre licence that can be used for this project and council also purchased a 5000ML allocation from the Flinders River Water Allocation Scheme.
“Flinders Shire have undertaken a drilling program over the last two years to find adequate water for the needs of this irrigation project. We also are working on approvals for a Great Artesian Basin bore as security.”
The project will use shallow bores to draw water from old river bed sands and is expected to require minimal land clearing.
“This council has spent more than $1 million on the 15 Mile Project to date. This includes land purchase, legal fees, drilling and professional consultants to progress the project,” Cr McNamara said.
“We’re planning for this project to pave the way for similar developments across the region. We’re hoping that private enterprise will develop on the back of this project, when we have proved that agriculture and horticulture is viable on the Flinders River.”
With the Kennedy Energy Park already under construction 20km east of Hughenden, the council was keen to tap into more opportunities in the renewable energy sector, Cr McNamara said.
“We’d be happy to be considered for more renewables. The State Government will need to invest in an upgrade to the electricity grid before more projects are considered.
“The Flinders Shire is open for business and economic development,” Cr McNamara said.