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Spotlight on Gladstone
Written by  Gladstone Mayor Gail Sellers
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In this edition of Govlink we speak with Gladstone Mayor Gail Sellers about the region, the unique challenges it faces, its relationship with the various industries that thrive in the region, and her plans for Gladstone’s future.

How do you think Gladstone is rising to the challenge of accommodating the large numbers of industry development in the region?

It is a unique challenge. From where I sit as Mayor, Gladstone is rising to the challenge but the majority of the challenge is being met by Gladstone Regional Council. We were the ones who said three years ago that we need accommodation here, so we began planning for workers’ accommodation at Callemondah, which is centrally located in the city. These plans are progressing now after some early hold ups due to state regulation and, when complete, will provide accommodation for up to 1000 people.

The second initiative was securing interest from the not-for-profit Brisbane Housing Company to establish themselves here as the Gladstone Housing Company and build affordable housing in the city. The gas companies contributed $19.5 million towards this initiative. Among the planned developments are the construction of student accommodation units at CQUniversity Australia’s Gladstone campus and several affordable accommodation units at different locations in the city.

We have also supported the ULDA’s (Urban Land Development Authority) Clinton residential housing development. This staged development provides affordable housing for people and achieves this through smaller allotment and modern urban design principles. The ULDA also has similar developments planned for Tannum Sands and Toolooa in Gladstone. On the accommodation front, we've got three programs of rental assistance available for eligible families, critical workers and apprentices and trainees. This is funded by gas companies and administered throughout the Community Advisory Service.

Has it reached crisis point in Gladstone with regards to access to affordable housing?

I believe we've tipped over the hill and we’re on the way down now; crisis point has been for the past 18 months.

On the jobs front, how is council rising to the challenge of jobs creation in the region?

There are so many jobs here; we have 6500 people working on Curtis Island at the moment and about 1000 living in workers’ accommodation on Curtis Island for the building of the QGC, GLNG and APLNG projects. The 1000 people now housed on the island will build to around 6000. As well as those people on the island, there are locals who still live in their own homes in the city. The drain from LNG industry jobs has created plenty of employment opportunities in small business and the service industry.

Has there been a drive towards apprenticeships and technical education in the region?

There are ample training opportunities in Gladstone. We have a Central Queensland Institute of TAFE Campus and also the Gladstone Area Group Apprenticeships Scheme, which is run by a board that is passionate about creating jobs and creating traineeships and apprenticeships for our youth. Bechtel has also embarked on a major program of employing mature-age apprentices and other industries offer similar opportunities as well. In addition, Education Queensland also promotes school-based apprenticeships through the Australia Technical College campus which is based at the Gladstone State High School.

It’s a very exciting time. It’s an amazing city at the moment and the spirit is very good. The people who come here do so because they want to be here and they’re very passionate about their work and very passionate about getting the job done. Gladstone has always been an industrial town since the 1960s and the people who come here come for that reason, they come for the work, they come for the money, then they stay and raise their families here.

Regarding the relationship between the Gladstone community and the LNG industry you have previously said, ‘We have to learn to get along with our neighbours’. How are you promoting harmony between the residents and the LNG industry?

The relationship is very good because the majority of people who live in the city are in favour of the industry because they either moved here to work with LNG or associated industries or they see the industries as providing a sustainable future for themselves and their children. As an advocate for the community, we are working with the LNG industry to provide essential soft and hard infrastructure in the region. The housing assistance programs mentioned earlier were developed as a result of our advocacy and support. This is just the start, though, and Council is keen to secure further funds to ensure our infrastructure can meet the demands of this growing region.

What investment and business opportunities are in the region for those considering moving?

There is always opportunity in a growth community but anyone who was looking to move here should do their homework as rents, houses, land and living is quite expensive at the moment. It is difficult to access some essential services and parents will find it difficult to find childcare for their children and long waiting lists are commonplace. Rents may drop marginally as more stock is developed and workers move to Curtis Island, but for the moment, people can expect their cost of living and doing business in Gladstone to be up to 30 per cent higher than most other regional centres.

That 30 per cent figure… Does that ring alarm bells for you?

We aren't any different to any other community that has undergone exponential growth as a result of mining and industrial expansion. If you have a look at the [Australian Bureau of Statistics] Census figures, you’ll find that we are very well paid in this region. Therefore, I think people feel that they can charge more and to some extent, they have to. Everything just costs more. It costs more to live here because housing stock has been in short supply and wages are increasing accordingly in an attempt to retain staff who may seek higher paying jobs with LNG on Curtis Island.

What progress has been made on the revision of Gladstone’s community plan?

It is envisaged that our Community Plan, which was adopted in May 2011, will be reviewed as we progress our regional planning scheme to ensure that our respective communities’ visions are reflected in our community’s long-term planning over time. The annual Muster was held in July and work is ongoing.

Regarding essential infrastructure upgrades in the area, do you feel that you are getting adequate funding from the federal and state governments for these improvements?

No. Definitely not! Everything that’s happened here in this region has been started and done by the Gladstone Regional Council. The first thing we did three years ago, just after we were elected, was make the decision to borrow $65 million to upgrade the airport. That was an extremely difficult decision because it was a large component of borrowing for any organisation. We used the $65 million to upgrade the actual runway, and then we upgraded the terminal as well. We received $5.5 million from the Federal Government, which was the only money we received, but the funding was appreciated. This is being paid for by airport users each time they depart or arrive at Gladstone Airport through airport taxes, which means ratepayers aren't footing the bill.

Was that a nerve-wracking decision for council to make, to have that big of a loan?

This was not a difficult decision. There was just no alternative. If we hadn't have upgraded the airport, airlines could not have continued to use it for much longer as the runway was reaching its lifespan and was in need of costly repairs.

Has the airport redevelopment achieved its goals?

The airport, which became a corporate entity in July this year, experienced 48 per cent growth in passenger numbers in the 2011-2012 financial year. The airport has experienced record months in terms of passenger numbers, with 33,925 passengers in May, 33,957 passengers in June and 35,932 in July. The redevelopment also attracted a second domestic airline with Virgin Australia now operating daily services. Between Virgin Australia and Qantaslink, there are more than 10 flights a day. Much of this growth can be attributed to the industrial growth and the flying in and out of workers to the city. The redevelopment has meant that debt is being repaid quicker than first anticipated.

Growing up in the area did you ever foresee Gladstone with its own airport and the rise and rise of development?

We have had an airport for a very long time so it is no surprise to see it develop into one of the nation’s best regional airports. Most people here always saw the potential for the region to grow significantly as it was already an industrial city with a solid skills base and we have one of the best deepwater export ports in the nation. What we did not know, though, is just how many of the proposed LNG proponents would establish themselves here; and all at the same time.

You’ve recently successfully contested the election and been appointed as Mayor of Gladstone, so what is your future vision for the region?

We've got quite a few projects that we need to get done now that the airport is operating extremely well. We’re looking at developing the Gladstone Entertainment Centre, a $30 million revamp and cooperative venture with the Gladstone Ports Corporation. We plan to develop three more levels of car parking, create a flat floor space to accommodate 1500 people standing and 1000 people seated; a new kitchen; and a new façade with main street appeal. The Gladstone Ports Corporation will have a level of new offices there as will Maritime Services Queensland with direct sight of the harbour.

We also have the Philip Street Community Precinct, which is a project we are hoping to progress if we can find sufficient external funds. Philip Street is a 27 hectare site that is planned to be developed to satisfy a number of social infrastructure needs for Gladstone. The aim is to co-locate several human and social service functions, including the relocation of Council’s Gladstone Community Advisory Service; the construction of a Neighbourhood Centre; and the development of an outdoor amphitheatre and playground; a retirement village of some 200 units and a 60 allotment residential estate.

Another project we’re advocating for is a traffic solution at the Kin Kora roundabout which is where the major shopping centre is, and it is increasingly being put under pressure as growth occurs to the south and west. Stockland is planning to commence a major extension but that has been held up because of traffic issues. We’re also working to improve State roads in the area and this includes an overpass at Calliope crossroads, with $150 million of Federal Government funding.

Cr Gail Sellers was elected to the Gladstone City Council as an Alderman in 1988 and held the position of Deputy Mayor from 1997-2008. She was successful at the fi rst election for the new Gladstone Regional Council and was appointed Deputy Mayor by the unanimous vote of her fellow Councillors. When the incumbent Mayor George Creed was forced to retire due to ill health, Cr Sellers entered the Mayoral election and was successful in attaining 72 per cent of the vote and became Mayor on November 25, 2011 and was re-elected at the April 2012 election. Cr Sellers is a Life Member and Patron of many organisations and enjoys all aspects of community representation.

 

spotlight on gladstone 1

A Qantaslink aircraft takes off from Gladstone Airport. In the background is the Gladstone Harbour and some of the port facilities. In the foreground is Stockland Gladstone (Kin Kora), a section of the golf course and the race track to the left.

 

spotlight on gladstone 2

Aerial over the Gladstone Airport and Clinton suburb of Gladstone.

 

spotlight on gladstone 3

Residential Residential housing development in the outer Gladstone suburbs.

Last modified on Monday, 25 February 2013 10:13

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