Coun­try liv­ing beck­ons with pop­u­la­tion de­cline

Balonne Beacon - - NEWS - Chris Hon­nery Molly Han­cock

DWIN­DLING pop­u­la­tion num­bers in Queens­land’s out­back have prompted calls for more peo­ple to move out west.

The Valu­ing a Liv­ing

Out­back re­port, re­leased re­cently, has high­lighted the in­creas­ing threat of a de­clin­ing pop­u­la­tion in the bush and a lack of peo­ple to man­age threats such as un­con­trolled fires, feral an­i­mals and weeds.

There is un­der­stood to be about 88,000 cur­rent res­i­dents in out­back Queens­land – the low­est num­ber of lo­cals, both indige­nous and non-indige­nous, in 55,000 years.

The crit­i­cal need for res­i­dents has prompted The Pew Char­i­ta­ble Trusts Queens­land man­ager Fiona Maxwell to call for more sup­port for land­hold­ers, na­tional parks and lo­cal pro­grams.

“Those peo­ple are suf­fer­ing from a lack of sup­port, mean­ing the beau­ti­ful land­scapes they main­tain – those same land­scapes we’re see­ing tourists in­creas­ingly flock to – are un­der threat,” she said.

“To keep the Out­back healthy and to main­tain its na­ture, its wildlife, its peo­ple and its economies, we need to sup­port those who live there, look­ing af­ter and man­ag­ing its lands.”

Out­back Queens­land’s pop­u­la­tion de­clined by 1.1 per cent between 2012 and 2017, with only six out of 27 lo­cal gov­ern­ment ar­eas record­ing an in­crease.

Au­thor­i­ties warn the loss of lo­cal res­i­dents will af­fect tourism and do­mes­tic vis­i­ta­tion growth which has seen a three-year growth rate of 9.1 per cent to June 2017 – higher than the state’s av­er­age.

Out­back Queens­land Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion gen­eral man­ager Peter Ho­man said build­ing in­fra­struc­ture such as uni­ver­si­ties, hos­pi­tals and big­ger air­ports would help at­tract more peo­ple to live in the bush.

“I think all of the towns are look­ing (for peo­ple to move there),” he said.

“I think it’s a real con­cern for them to see the dwin­dling pop­u­la­tion. It’s all about the live­abil­ity is­sues.

“The cost of get­ting back to the city, or get­ting to hos­pi­tals if you need treat­ment.

“We’re quite a long way away from hos­pi­tals and ma­jor uni­ver­si­ties and a long way from in­ter­na­tional air­ports if you need to travel.”

Mara­noa Re­gional Coun­cil mayor Tyson Golder said the Mara­noa had plenty of great as­pects to en­cour­age peo­ple to make the move west.

“The big­gest pos­i­tive the Mara­noa has to of­fer is the life­style, the friendli­est of the peo­ple and be­ing able to say G’day to any­one,” Cr Golder said.

“It is re­ally is a chal­lenge for all ar­eas on how do we get peo­ple em­bed­ded into the com­mu­nity be­cause I love where I live and the peo­ple of the Mara­noa.”

Mur­weh Shire Mayor An­nie Lis­ton said the drought had played a sig­nif­i­cant role in pop­u­la­tion num­bers dwin­dling.

“Grad­u­ally since 2012 there has been a de­cline, mainly due to the drought and with agri­cul­ture our big­gest busi­ness, peo­ple can’t af­ford to em­ploy peo­ple like they did be­fore the drought,” Cr Lis­ton said.

“I want to en­cour­age peo­ple to come and live in the ru­ral and re­mote places like our shire be­cause we are al­ways look­ing for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­vide more jobs in the bush.”

Both may­ors agreed that there were plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered in the bush.

“I be­lieve all of the towns in the south­west have been suf­fer­ing and we need higher pop­u­la­tion growth to help sus­tain our com­mu­ni­ties,” Cr Golder said.

“There is still the op­por­tu­ni­ties out here in the bush, de­pend­ing what peo­ple want to do and I be­lieve in­cen­tives would en­cour­age peo­ple to make the move out west,” Cr Lis­ton said.

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