Whatever decisions are made about the future of the Emerald Agricultural College, it must be retained as the region’s pre-eminent training facility, with agriculture at its core, according to Central Highlands Regional Council mayor, Kerry Hayes.
His words come as the North West Queensland Regional Organisation of Councils calls on the state government to work with its sister group, the Remote Area Planning and Development Board in determining the Longreach Pastoral College’s future.
The central Queensland region’s civic leader said the government’s announcement that Queensland Agricultural Training Corporation would cease at the end of 2019, came with hints that the outcomes for the campuses at Longreach and Emerald would likely be different.
“Emerald has had a relationship with CQUniversity in the past and I believe that something with them is more than likely,” he said.
To ensure that happens, it was clear that diversified training streams, incorporating resource sector and technological needs, as well as mainstream university subjects such as veterinary science needed to be embraced.
From a council perspective, Cr Hayes said they would like to see collaboration and private sector co-investment, and has offered to facilitate that level of engagement.
“The private sector sees us as a key driver, and we have changed up agriculture, and planned for the future more than most,” he said. “Our council would always consider an opportunity if co-investment was required to make a balanced outcome.”
More campus investment would be required if the location in the centre of the state were to support a major educational training facility, he said.
“We don’t want to see an ambit claim on the assets, just because they’re in central Queensland,” he said. “It can’t be the same old model – it’s got to be affordable and insightful.”
Indicating the level of thought put into the future for the college at Emerald, Cr Hayes pointed to Olds College in Canada as an excellent example of what could be.
Its webpage says: “Through our applied research and integrated learning, we are proud to be Canada’s Smart Agriculture College, specializing in agriculture, horticulture, land and environmental stewardship. We work closely with industry to advance and adapt our programming to ensure our graduates have the skills to succeed.”
Council support in the north west
Meanwhile, NWQROC executive officer, Greg Hoffman, said the eight north Queensland mayors understood the disappointment generated by the state government announcement that the Longreach Pastoral College would close at the end of 2019, as recommended in the Coaldrake Report.
In recognition of the social and economic impact the college has had on the community of Longreach and beyond, NWQROC called on the state government to work with its sister group, the Remote Area Planning and Development Board in determining the college’s future.
He said now was the time to have locals in the driver’s seat in the next stage of the college’s evolution, which was why they put their support behind RAPAD in taking a leading role in the future of the college, a position that was also recommended in the Coaldrake Report.
“RAPAD is best placed not only as the collective of seven local governments, but also as a well-established organisation that has vast expertise in its individual board members,” Mr Hoffman said.
“In regional and remote areas like ours, local governments play a vital role in communities. This is exemplified through the many positive initiatives delivered under RAPAD for the central west, including building from the ground up a dedicated RTO that delivers targeted training to meet the region’s needs.
“With only 12 months remaining until the college closes, government must talk with the Longreach Regional Council and RAPAD to ensure the best outcome for the region’s communities and local economy.
“This is an optimum time to harness the existing expertise and skills of community leaders in council who know their region better than anyone.
“Looking to the future, combining relevant college programs with the experience and scope of training already available through RAPAD’s RTO would be a great asset to this part of the world.”