RAPAD rises to the top in Pastoral College plans

RAPAD to develop business plan for former Longreach Pastoral College

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Community consultation committee members Liza Cameron, representing the Longreach State High School, and Donald Brown (second right), representing AgForce, with RAPAD CEO David Arnold and board member and Longreach mayor Ed Warren, have taken part in a thorough decision-making process. Picture - Nicole Bond.

Community consultation committee members Liza Cameron, representing the Longreach State High School, and Donald Brown (second right), representing AgForce, with RAPAD CEO David Arnold and board member and Longreach mayor Ed Warren, have taken part in a thorough decision-making process. Picture - Nicole Bond.

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The year-long wait to know the fate of the Longreach campus of the former Queensland Agricultural Training College has ended with the news that the Remote Area Planning and Development Board has signed a Licence to Occupy with the state government.

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The year-long wait to know the fate of the Longreach campus of the former Queensland Agricultural Training College has ended with the news that the Remote Area Planning and Development Board has signed a Licence to Occupy with the state government.

The economic development body that represents the seven local government areas of central western Queensland will undertake the interim management of the campus, and will develop a longer-term business plan with community input.

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the initial agreement, to be in place until November, was a significant step toward meeting the expectations of the Longreach community.

"This agreement will allow RAPAD to accommodate community events, training and commercial interests and, importantly, the former college's memorabilia and other historical elements will be retained," he said.

The Palaszczuk government announced in December 2018 that it was closing the Longreach and Emerald agricultural colleges, following an independent review that found declining demand for traditional agricultural industry training as it had traditionally been delivered.

Negotiations on the future of the Emerald facility are continuing and that region will have to wait for an unspecified time to hear what is planned there.

RAPAD met immediately after the December 2018 closure announcement, declaring it was "ready, willing and able" to work proactively with the state government to be part of a solution.

This week's news is the first stage of what is expected to become a more permanent arrangement for the campus.

Mr Furner said the department would continue to maintain the Longreach college assets in partnership with RAPAD as a more permanent occupancy arrangement was worked towards.

"The Queensland government will assist RAPAD with resources to develop a detailed business case, which will inform the longer-term arrangements for the facility," he said.

RAPAD CEO David Arnold said they didn't know what the future for the former college held yet but the regional development organisation wanted to have a red hot crack.

"We teamed up with CQUniversity, the Longreach State High School, the Outback Queensland Tourism Association, the Longreach School of Distance Education, and others, to submit an expression of interest to the Project Management Office.

"At the end of their scoring process they said, let's keep talking to RAPAD.

"I hope we can take advantage of the opportunities out there, but there's no plan to start delivering ag training in March or anything like that.

"We hope to deliver a business case within several months."

While saying no-one had a fixed mindset on what to do at the former college campus, Mr Arnold said he expected it would incorporate agricultural training.

Reiterating the words of RAPAD chairman Rob Chandler when the news of the closure of Longreach and Emerald colleges became public in December 2018, he said the organisation believed the scope for future opportunities had to be wider than just agriculture, although it should be a very important part.

Cr Chandler said at the time that they had to transition away from being an agricultural college at Longreach into being a college for an agricultural region.

This week Mr Arnold said there should be no lessening of the role of agriculture but the region could offer a much wider scope.

"Whatever is done has to have financial sustainability and get bums on seats," he said. "The business case is not solely about RAPAD - it's an open book."

Questioned on whether the college could have continued operating alongside the community consultation process, Mr Arnold said that was in the past.

He said the board had expressed its disappointment at the time but the government decision was made and they were there to get the best result for the region now.

"I have no comment on the process," he said.

Similarly, he said it was obvious the QATC legislation would have to be repealed and the entity dissolved to facilitate what RAPAD would begin delivering.

"It's a statutory organisation and the government was committed through the Coaldrake report to closing it," he said. "There were no surprises in the legislative repeal for me."

Gregory MP Lachlan Millar was critical of the process in parliament in early February, warning that it would mean the assets would be disposed of so neither community could restore the campuses.

Mr Arnold said RAPAD was a not-for-profit organisation and the costs for the development of the business case would be borne by the state government.

"Our pre-feasibility study identified a potential per annum transition cost but I'm not at liberty to say how much that was," he said.

Mr Furner said he was grateful for the way local community members engaged in the consultation process and made a real contribution to a successful outcome.

As the sub-tenant, RAPAD will now facilitate community use of the facilities for things such as accommodation for the Qantas centenary celebrations.

The story RAPAD rises to the top in Pastoral College plans first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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