Southern Downs Regional Council employees (from left) Tony Minuti, John Randall and Jenny Sherrin at the 2009 Country and Regional Living Expo.
Southern Downs Regional Council employees (from left) Tony Minuti, John Randall and Jenny Sherrin at the 2009 Country and Regional Living Expo. Contributed

Govt axes $150k for Living Expo

SOUTHERN Downs Mayor Ron Bellingham is philosophical about the ditching by the State Government of funding for an annual regional living expo in Brisbane, saying Premier Anna Bligh needs to look at the “big picture” of decentralising Queensland.

The government yesterday axed the $150,000 it has provided for the past three years to support the Country and Regional Living Expo at the Brisbane Convention Centre, claiming the event made a loss of $66,084 in 2009 and had seen a 35 per cent drop in exhibitors.

The State Opposition yesterday came out swinging against the move, saying the expo was “a major forum” used by small and mid-tier regional councils to encourage individuals and businesses to relocate from the crowded south-east.

But Cr Bellingham said while he had supported the expo concept in the past – attending on occasion – he conceded it was difficult to measure its success.

“You had a lot of people coming through the expo seriously endeavouring to relocate from metropolitan areas,” the mayor said.

“But at the end of the day it has been fairly difficult to quantify the actual impact (of the expo) on people’s decision to move to a regional area.

“There is a bigger picture here, which is the need for all levels of government to work together on creating meaningful jobs in the regions.”

Cr Bellingham said he supported the Bligh Government’s planned $4000 incentive for first-home buyers to head out of the south-east corner, which Premier Bligh ironically announced yesterday would be brought forward to begin today.

But he stressed the need for “meaningful” jobs to be available for those wanting to make their tree-change.

“There are many people retiring here from metro areas which is excellent, but we also need young people in highly-paid hobs, including government jobs, as well as teaching, medicine and research and development,” he said.

“I had a bit of a cynical chuckle last week when Premier Bligh talked about de-centralising government departments but said this might involve Ipswich.

“Ipswich is hardly regional, it’s effectively a part of Brisbane – it’s time to get serious about de-centralisation.”

LNP leader John-Paul Langbroek said the Bligh Government’s decision to axe funding for the expo was hypocritical and showed the Premier and her Ministers understood little of the dynamics of rural and regional economies.

“I spent an afternoon at the Expo at the Brisbane Exhibition centre last October and was overwhelmed by the number of small and mid-tier councils who were looking to attract individuals, families, professionals and businesses,” Mr Langbroek said.

Mr Langbroek said the action was highly hypocritical at a time when the Bligh Government was attempting to address population pressure in the south-east.

“It’s typical policy-on-the-run for Anna Bligh to announce her $4000 carrot for first-home buyers to move outside SE Queensland, but then pull support for the Country and Regional Living Expo.”

A government spokesman said despite repeated requests, the expo organisers had been “unable to demonstrate” that attendance at the Expo led people to move to country areas.

Premier Bligh announced yesterday that availability of the $11,000 home-buyers grant – which included the new $4000 regional boost – would be brought forward to today.



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