Country living beckons with population decline
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.