Future of region is in safe hands
WHAT is the future of our region?
Where will the Southern Downs be in five, 10, 15 and 30 years?
How can we capitalise on the airport at Wellcamp?
All these issues and more will be the topic of discussion at the very first Futures Development Board meeting next Wednesday.
Mayor Peter Blundell is the chair of the board and has invited a diverse range of people to join him to research and to help chart possible business opportunities for the region.
Cr Blundell said now was the time to start planning and take action.
"There's lots happening all over the place," he said.
"It came about by looking at what other regions had done and we thought it was a good model to follow.
"We are really going to focus on economic development and what this region is going to look like in 30 years' time."
Cr Blundell said he has chosen successful and active members of the community to be a part of the board.
"The group of people have a lot to contribute," he said.
"They all come from a range of different backgrounds and experts in their fields.
The futures development board is made up of Peter Lindores, Peta Hawes, Colin Britton, Prue Bondfield, Ross Fraser, David Littleproud and Nathan McDonald.
"Ross has great experience in the transport industry, the Bondfield's are leading in cattle," Cr Blundell said.
"Peta is very passionate about showcasing what our region has to offer for example through the Southern Downs Harvest lunch.
"Colin Britton is very successful in business in Stanthorpe, growing vegetables and Peter Lindores is a very successful businessman.
"We've also got the presidents of Warwick and Stanthorpe Chamber of Commerce in David and Nathan."
The key to success in our region is identifying economic trends.
Prue Bondfield said she is prepared to go into the meeting with an open mind and make sure the Southern Downs isn't left behind.
"We need something to ear mark our region, others have mining and big industry, what do we have?"
"We have been very focused on industry but it's about getting a brand out for the region.
"We really need to take advantage of the airport at Wellcamp."
Mrs Bondfield and her husband have recently returned from a trip to China to look at different aspects of export.
"I think the Southern Downs is going to be defined by the world," she said.
"Big things are changing in export and this airport is going to change business here forever and create many new opportunities.
"We need to work out a way to best take advantage of it," Mrs Bondfield said.
Owner of Britton Produce in Stanthorpe Colin Britton is focused on farming in the region but also a strong supporter of local sport.
"I'm a member of a lot of different sporting committees," he said.
"From a sporting focus I'd like to see a lot more carnivals in our region.
"We need to start focusing largely on women in sport as well."
Mr Britton said the meetings will all be about putting the regions issues on the table.
"From a farming point of view something I will take to the meeting is the issue of water," he said.
"We've got a few dam projects outstanding in Stanthorpe and town water is very poor.
"Farmers really need water security."
Mr Britton said he loves doing business on the Southern Downs.
"If I didn't think there was a bright future for the region I wouldn't be here," he said.
"It's a very unique place and we need to determine the correct direction."
Warwick Chamber of Commerce president David Littleproud has a strong interest in the future economy of the Southern Downs.
"Our biggest advantage is location," he said.
"We need to start attracting highly skilled workers to our area to add to our economy.
"People love our lifestyle which needs to be showcased and tourism plays a huge part in this.
"Warwick Tourism and Events do a great job but we need to look at what else we can do to draw people to this area."
Mr Littleproud thinks it's perfect timing for the board to form.
"The region is at a crossroads and we have potential for great things," he said.
"I'd like to see our industry expanded so we can become strong enough to stand up to world crises."
Highly successful businessman Peter Lindores is looking forward to the meeting next week.
"The Southern Downs is perfectly placed in relation to Brisbane and Sydney," he said.
"It's going to be great to sit down and discuss opportunities with everyone.
"I'd like to see major growth in the region and there is no reason why we can't capitalise off mining like other areas.
"Obviously we are going to need to do studies and formulate a long term goal to enhance the future of our community."
Ross Fraser is very passionate about our region and believes it is "one of the best kept secrets of South East Queensland".
"I feel very privileged to be a part of the board," he said.
"The region is very unique and has a lot of attractions we can expand on like Morgan Park and the Warwick Turf Club.
"Another aspect we need to capitalise on is cost of living.
"It's very cheap to live here and this is something we need to push because it's a great lifestyle."
Mr Fraser also believes we need to look at a way of expanding our CBD.
"The new town plan doesn't really allow for expansion," he said.
"We need to look at a way of getting more in the CBD to draw people to.
"Jumpers and Jazz is one event that is an indication of how we can draw people here, we just need to expand on it."