Guest Speakers Guest Speakers

Speaker One

After 31 years as an elected member of Canegrowers Herbert River, Stephen was elected this year as Chairman. He is also the Herbert River Director of the Queensland Canegrowers Organisation and a third generation cane farmer.

"…The sugar industry creates demand for support industry in engineering fabrication and supply, mechanical services, motor vehicle and tractor supply and maintenance, contract earthmoving, laser levelling, supply and application of fertiliser and agricultural chemicals…"

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Speaker Two

Mary has held the position of President of the Hinchinbrook Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism since November 2008. For many years Mary and her husband Geoff have owned and operated a successful Ingham business.

"…All indications are that the future has so much potential and this community is very well placed to take advantage of these very real opportunities. We have enormous talent, skills and ability to embrace these opportunities…"

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Speaker Three

Terrie has been the President of the Lucinda Progress Association for the past two years. Terrie is a well respected TAFE teacher and is passionate about the natural beauty of the district. Terrie loves living in Lucinda where she has resided for the past 25 years.

"…The first strength I noted therefore is the natural beauty and diversity of the district, from beaches, to rainforests, to islands and reefs, to pristine waterways and quaint riverfront communities; the natural beauty of this whole district is enviable as is the diversity and beauty of both flora and fauna…"

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Speaker Four

Raymond is currently serving his 8th term as Chair of the Hinchinbrook Community Support Centre. The Hinchinbrook Community Support Centre has been servicing Ingham for 33 years being founded in 1980. Raymond's contribution to the Hinchinbrook Community Support Centre is in the areas of strategy and corporate governance. He believes that this community needs a strong, local social service organisation. 

"…It is clear that this community is going to have an increasing need for social service delivery to an aging and increasingly socially and economically disadvantaged population, with an increasing level of demands and support requirements…"

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Speaker One – Stephen Guazzo, Primary Production

Sugar Industry Structure
Mills, Farms and Terminals…

Historically the industry prospered when it was regulated to weld together all the farming units supplying the mill with stable and remunerative prices when Australia's interest was served with a labour intensive industry along the North Queensland coastline. Several important institutional arrangements were put in place in regard to regulating grower mill interface, marketing, handling and provision of R D & E.

The industry evolved to what it is today in the Herbert.

580         Cane Growers – Family farms

62           Harvesting Groups operated in the 2013 Season providing direct employment for some 250 field workers in harvesting and hauling the cane

2              Sugar Mills processing cane and delivering sugar to Lucinda Bulk Terminal

525         Total number of mill employees and staff during the crushing season which includes 180 seasonal employees

•          Bulk sugar terminal at Lucinda owned by Sugar Terminals Limited (STL)

•          $470m Insured value

•          Shed capacity 230,000 tonnes of sugar

•          Loading rate for ship loader 2000 tonnes per hour

•          Accommodating ships to 65,000 tonnes DWT

•          20 permanent staff employed

The bulk handling techniques are similar for most bulk commodities so there is potential for use by other compatible commodities.

Support Business

The sugar industry creates demand for support industry in engineering fabrication and supply, mechanical services, motor vehicle and tractor supply and maintenance, contract earth moving, laser levelling, supply and application of fertiliser and agricultural chemicals.

Shire Rate Contribution

•          There are 972 Valuations for sugar cane use

•          Current value is $202 M for sugar cane

•          Farms represent 22.56% of shire valuation

•          Farms contribute 47.36% of shire rates

•          Sugar cane is punching well above its weight

Land Area

•          2013 Land harvested 54,018 hectares

•          Just over 4 million tonnes of cane

•          Over $200 M of proceeds from the Herbert industry.

•          Gross cane supply contract area 65,189 hectares

•          Suitable cane area excluding forest area 72,000 hectares

Growth Potential

Abergowrie SF 591                          2129 ha

Lannercost SF 700                            2878 ha

                                                Total      5007 ha

Suitable for cane but Queensland Government has leased to HQ Timber

Concerns

•          Cost of farm inputs

•          Sugar price based on world market.  Forward pricing tools can help manage some of that risk.

•          Productivity – Need to recover  sustainable yield >90 t/ha

•          Managing our environmental footprint

–        Sugar cane with trash blanketing is a very clean industry always needing to maximise production

Opportunities

•          Constantly evaluating opportunities

•          R&D investment to achieve required productivity is now on its best footing since deregulation

•          Producing consistently between 5 and 6 million tonnes of cane sustainably

Speaker Two – Mary Brown, Business

  1. How does the community perceive things now?

Strengths:

  • Well established community with strong foundation and substantial support services
  • Solid industry bases in agriculture/aqua culture/grazing and tourism
  • Abundant environmental assets to develop a vibrant tourism industry further
  • Close proximity to major capital city – can be an asset if marketed correctly
  • Major town on national highway – making it easier to capture tourist drive market
  • Well established local health, education, sporting and cultural infrastructure and services
  • Currently are included in area of Federal focus for the Northern Australia White Paper
  • Abundant, fertile land with easily accessible, plentiful water supplies – current global trends that are focusing on agriculture will provide substantial opportunities

 

Challenges:

  • Community demoralized attitude and increased negativity, as a result of consecutive natural disasters, GFC and current sugar industry challenges
  • Ageing demographic and reducing population
  • Sugar industry current viability and the impact this is having on the economy
  • Limitations around developing new industry and employment opportunities, to retain or attract youth and families to the district
  • Close proximity to a major city centre – providing increased retail competition and drawing our youth away from district

 

  1. What the community want to see in ten years time?
    • A vibrant and economically viable community, with strong infrastructure and services, diverse economy and attributes of our safe, supportive lifestyle retained
    • More diverse population demographic
    • More sustainable sugar industry where there is enough viability within the industry to attract and retain young farmers in the industry, which will in turn support a viable local economy
    • More industry specific training, delivered locally with a sustainability plan to continue viable farming and harvesting businesses
    • More diversity of industries in the shire – focus on tourism, cottage industries
    • Do we want to become an extension of Townsville City…would that be to our economic advantage or are we fiercely protective of our own identity and will be prepared to do all in our power to retain it?

 

All indications are that the future has so much potential and this community is very well placed to take advantage of these very real opportunities. We have enormous talent, skills and ability to embrace these opportunities, however it's inevitable that some change will be necessary. Change is not necessarily negative, it is just different and it is certain that it will not happen on its own. It takes vision, courage, commitment, time and hard work to effect. We all must play a part and get involved – not expect that it is someone else's responsibility. All members of community must make their own contribution and tonight is the start of that process.

If we do nothing, the current challenges we are experiencing in this community will be the new normal. Without a plan and active participation, engagement by the community and support of Council, Chamber and each other, the only thing that can be guaranteed, is that we will witness the continued decline of our community. 

I encourage all here tonight to contribute as much as you are able to this forum and the others to follow, bring solutions to the table and be part of the implementation process, for any plans that result from this consultation. We all understand that the time for talking about doing something has gone – we now want to see action and be part of making the difference that will drive this community to a strong and vibrant future for us all, our children and the generations to come after us.

Speaker Three – Terrie Paterson, Residential Lifestyle

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I have been asked to speak about the strengths and challenges of living in the Herbert River District, now and into the future. It is a subjective dialogue in that the strengths and challenges I discuss in the next 5 minutes, or make that 4 ½ minutes now, are my perceptions only. They are not the opinions of council or any other group although some may enjoy the same perceptions.

I came to this district as a visitor with friends when I was 15 and fell in love with the beach, marine environment and lifestyle of Lucinda. The first strength I noted therefore is the natural beauty and diversity of the district, from beaches, to rainforests, to islands and reefs, to pristine waterways and quaint riverfront communities; the natural beauty of this whole district is enviable as is the diversity and beauty of both flora and fauna.

Hand in hand with the strength of our natural beauty is the strength of our geographic location. Only an hour from the ‘metropolis' of Townsville and 45 minutes to cosy Cardwell, on the southern boundary of the Wet Tropics, close to the reef and located on a natural flood plain. Our reputation as a flood town gets us publicity & renown, as does our fishing reputation. This too can be perceived as a strength; another bow in the arrow of our community's personality.

We are small: Almost a village or many villages. Seen as quaint and maybe quirky by outsiders but appealing in the benefits a small community brings. No traffic jams, long queues in shops or huge crowds at events. People buy weekenders and or relocate for the combination of enhanced lifestyle and natural beauty.

In our small community our community support systems are strengths. Proactive and professional and there to assist those who need assistance either temporarily or permanently. These groups are the grass roots of our community and envisage and act upon a holistic community and business ideal. Think of our very successful and well run Men's Shed, our proactive, diversifying Ingham Parents Support Group (providing support services and diversifying into the commercial world and allowing our cinema to continue to operate) and our soon to be re-located proactive Hinchinbrook Community Support Services, just to name a few. I'll include in here our educational opportunities and choices; small or ‘big' schools, public or private, academic or vocational focus; the choices exist in our community.

The proposed new mill and the sugar industry are strengths. The sugar industry because that is what our town is based on, why it existed in the first place, why it continues to exist. It is our main employer, it is not going to disappear, the new mill will provide new employment opportunities, and will again reinforce Ingham's reputation as a progressive, forward thinking, and vibrant community. It will provide competition and encourage the value-adding aspects of the industry.

Our history & our cultural heritage and the pride we have in those aspects of this district. Think of the history of the sugar industry and the pride we feel when we think of the hard work put in by many cultures to establish the district to what it is today. And how can we not acknowledge and feel pride in our multicultural society and the contributions they have made and continue to make to our community. One of these contributions is the culinary delights of the Italian culture and our reputation in the retail sector. People visit to shop in our delicatessens, restaurants, pasta shops and our fashion stores. People also come to visit the natural wonders of Mungalla and hear about our local indigenous culture. Other contributions made by our pride in our cultural heritage are our famous festivals. These are strengths to our community because they provide the opportunity to celebrate our community, bring our community together and or share our community with others.

Although controversial, my next perceived strength is the TYTO Centre and the Tourist Information Centre. TYTO and the Tourist Information Centre demonstrate and represent a dynamic, forward thinking, progressive community. They provide a modern, ‘nice' facility for the community to be proud of, boast about and share. Now that they are there, they should be utilised and enjoyed by the community; a sightseer's, family-outing and community-gathering, destination.

There are other strengths of this district and community, like our local newspaper our local police, ambulance, hospital and fire service, our council-run facilities such as the swimming pool, the botanical gardens, local job support providers, our retail sector. Without these there would be a weakness, an omission from our community. There are many more, but time is of the essence so I apologise for any glaring omissions but will now move on to my perceived challenges for the district.

Challenges depend on your goal. Is our goal to prosper and grow to the extent that we are no longer a small town, a collection of quaint and or quirky villages or townships? Do we want to become a suburb of Townsville? Do we want to be to Townsville, what Noosa is to Brisbane? Do we want to sustain what we have and stimulate mild growth and make it a community where lifestyle is paramount? One does not necessarily negate the other.

My first perceived challenge regardless of our goal though is the challenge of creating inclusive communities and an inclusive community. Fostering and acknowledging pride in individual townships and communities, including communities in decisions that affect their lives, community problem solving and then applying that to the wider Herbert River District community: A joining of forces to create a positivity to be shared with and envied by the rest of the state, country, world.

Another challenge I perceive is the need to shed the image of a struggling small time sugar town and creating an image/brand of positivity, of ‘look what we have', ‘look where we live', and ‘we bet you wish you could live here!' Making Ingham and the Herbert River District a desired destination for day trippers, (use our proximity to Townsville), holidayers (use our beaches), as a ‘must stop' destination for travellers (our retail sector & natural beauty), and for existing and potential residents, is an ongoing challenge.

People probably do wish they could live here but the thing that stops them is employment opportunity. How nice is it to live at the beach or in a small, quiet township on a picturesque river, or enjoy the tranquillity of a farm house, but you have to have a job to achieve it and sustain it. We need to create and foster all employment opportunities, be they in the immediate district or by making nearby employment opportunities accessible.

My last challenge is to foster and grow our retail sector, a filling of the shopfronts and a journey into the digital and online era. The challenge is to tackle and achieve this as a community: The creation of a bustling retail environment and an online Hinchinbrook retail ‘eDomain' so to speak.

In summary, it is my perception that our district is one to be proud of, and one of much potential. I have shared with you today some of the strengths and challenges I perceive for our community. I am humbled by your request to hear my opinions and your willingness to listen. I thank you for the opportunity and hope that my dialogue has achieved your goal.

Thank you for listening!

Speaker Four – Raymond De Lai, Social Welfare

Good evening Mayor, Councillors, Member of Hinchinbrook and Minister for Natural Resources and  Mines the Hon Andrew Cripps, Special Guests, and members of the Hinchinbrook Community. Thank you for the invitation to speak tonight on social welfare issues in the Hinchinbrook Community.

I am speaking on behalf of the Hinchinbrook Community Support Centre. The ‘Centre' as we like to call it, was established in 1980 by a group of volunteers looking to provide advice, assistance, and advocacy around the issue of domestic violence.

Today the Centre has grown significantly – in terms of staffing, resourcing, and programs delivered – and are the hub for social service delivery and support in the Hinchinbrook Shire. Some of the programs and services delivered by the Centre include:

  • Supported emergency housing for the homeless;
  • Community housing for those on low income and facing disadvantage;
  • Domestic violence support, including court support and shelter;
  • Youth support program to assist youth at risk;
  • Local community shopping bus;
  • Non-urgent medical bus transport service to Townsville;
  • Suicide prevention program;
  • A building and garden maintenance social enterprise;
  • Emergency relief
  • General information, referrals, counselling, and client advocacy

 

I have been asked today to talk about social welfare in this community. I have only been given five minutes to discuss this topic, so will concentrate on just two social welfare elements that will have a strategic impact on this community. Firstly I will cover the demographics of our community, and where that is heading. Secondly I will discuss the financial challenge we face in the delivery of social housing in this community.

Let's take a look at the numbers for our community and paint a picture of the demographics. These statistics are for 30th June 2012, and are sourced from the Queensland Governments Office of Economic and Statistical Research.

As of 30th June 2012, we had an estimated resident population of 11,769, down from 12,046 ten years earlier.

We have a significantly older age structure than anywhere else in Queensland, with the highest proportion of over 65 year olds than the rest of Queensland, with median age of 46.4%. 22.4% of our community was aged 65 years or older. This compares to the average for Queensland of 13.3%. Just over a third of our population was 55 years or older, at 34%.

The age bracket of 20-34 is significantly low, and is the lowest age bracket in this community. In fact, by 2016, this community will have more over 65 year olds than under 25 years' olds.

In line with the older age structure of our community, 47.4% of our families are couples with no children, 39.9% are couples with children, and 11.6% of our families are one parent families.

A significantly high proportion of our community, 48.1%, owns their own homes, with 21.3% of homes being purchased, and 33.2% being rented.

According to OESR's projections, our population will increase marginally by just 0.3% over the next 20 years. Of concern, the 65+ age category is expected to double to 40% of our population by 2031, and the median age is projected to increase to 58.

So, what does our community look like from a social economic perspective? Fortunately, the

Australian Bureau of Statistics now produces an index of disadvantage, known as the Index of Socio-Economic Disadvantage. This measure ranks geographical areas to reflect disadvantage of social and economic conditions. It is a relative measure – each geographic area is ranked, in terms of social and economic disadvantage, against other geographical areas. Information that goes into determining an areas relative disadvantage includes the number of low income earners, level of education attainment, the level of unemployment, and the number of dwellings that do not have a motor vehicle. A low index value represents areas with the most disadvantage, while a high value represents an area of least disadvantage. A low value indicates a disadvantage (relative to other geographical areas) in the ability to access material and social resources and ability to participate in society.

For this community we have 32.6% of our population in the lowest (most disadvantaged) quintile. OESR use a quintile to break the population into fifths (20% - 20% of Queensland's population is in the lowest quintile). 93.8% of our population is in the lowest three quintiles (60% of Queensland population is in the lowest three quintiles). Generally, people and communities with the most disadvantage experience poorer health outcomes and require greater levels of support. In a news story just today, a report by the Australian Council for Educational Research identified a 2.5 year schooling difference between students from a wealthy background, and those from the lowest socio-economic background.

In terms of wealth, this community does not fare well against the rest of Queensland either. The median total personal income (which is the total of all wages/salaries, government benefits, pensions, allowances and other income a person usually receives) for residents of the Hinchinbrook Shire is $24,870. Almost 41% of our population receives less than $20,800/year, and almost 75% of our population receives less than $51,999/yr.

On the challenge of providing social housing; at the Centre, we have a large housing portfolio, in which we provide housing for people with a disadvantage. We have our own properties, but also manage properties for the Department of Communities and Hinchinbrook Shire Council.

This housing falls into the Queensland Department of Housing's One Social Housing System. This means that important criteria such as applications, waitlist management and rents are determined by the state government. These policies are rigidly applied and are providing real challenges for housing provision into the future.

We have a mismatch between the amount of money we spend on maintenance and management of our properties, and the income we receive as rent. Our financial modelling indicates that within a few years we will have fully spent our reserve funds on our properties. We also have a portfolio of old properties consisting of mainly 3 and 4 bedroom houses. Many of our properties need replacement, and we need a different mix of properties that are one or two bedrooms, and flood free.

It is clear that this community is going to have an increasing need for social service delivery to an aging and increasingly socially and economically disadvantaged population, with increasing an increasing level of demands and support requirements.

Given this picture, it begs the question of what will social service delivery look like in this community in the next 5, 10, and 20 years? What services will we require? How will they be different to today? Where will they be delivered from? And how will they be paid for? These are questions for the Roundtable today.