By CAITLIN CROWLEY

THE Toowoomba region has a staggering $18.7 billion worth of projects in the development pipeline, but that significant investment hinges on the availability of housing for workers and state and federal government funding for some big ticket projects.

Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise (TSBE) identified the figure in its 2022 Development Status Report, which projects an investment increase of $5.7 billion on 18 months ago.

The projects are either pending, approved and awaiting construction to start, or already underway.

“One of the things we noticed in this report is how many renewables projects are on the go,” TSBE CEO Ali Davenport said.

“The increase of nearly $6 billion, the majority of that is actually in renewables – such as the $2 billion MacIntyre Wind Farm and the proposed Pumped Hydro project ($980 million) and the Bulli Creek Solar Farm ($1 billion),” Davenport said.

“For some of these projects we need funding from the state and federal government. We also need to make sure that we’ve got the staff and the housing of course.

“But really from our regional perspective, this is a really exciting report.”

Mayor Paul Antonio and TSBE CEO Ali Davenport with the new report. IMAGE: TSBE
Breakdown of projects from TSBE 2022 Development Status Report

Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio said he was excited about what’s coming for the region.

“Toowoomba has always grown steadily but I think there’s potentially a real growth spurt coming our way as a result of the projects that have been listed,” he said.

“Toowoomba has one of the nation’s most diverse regional economies and as such, this significant increase of investment comes as no surprise to me.”

However Geoff Kath from Advance Toowoomba warned the region’s severe housing shortage was putting those potential economic benefits at risk.

“It’s in jeopardy – all of that is in jeopardy because you can’t get housing for a workforce to support that,” Kath said.

The mayor provided one of the strongest assurances yet, Toowoomba Regional Council was preparing to take action to address the issue, identifying it as the “biggest challenge facing this community.

Cr Antonio said: “We know the housing situation is tough at the moment, we know the complaints there are about land availability”.

“Clearly we need more land and there’ll be some major announcements in the coming week about further land for this area, much more development available in this area,” he said.

The mayor was referring to item number five on today’s Council committee meeting agenda – “Measures to Assist in Residential Land Development”.

There are four key recommendations, including that Council adopts a “Temporary Local Planning Instrument” to allow land currently zoned “emerging community” to be developed as if it were a “low density residential zone”.

The Planning and Development report said this would “ensure that existing serviced land that is available on the fringes of the Toowoomba urban areas are made available for development with a minimal level of constraint.”

The report also recommends Council adopts an incentives policy, reducing infrastructure charges for medium density development by 60% for new approvals, 50% for existing development approvals and 40% for duplex dwellings, for two years, to “encourage the construction of more multi-unit developments to increase housing choice and grow the regional rental market,” the report said.

However Geoff Kath told the Caller the solutions Council was offering were “totally inadequate to address the land supply issue”.

“There is complete failure,” Kath said, adding: “the proposed steps of Council will not address the housing crisis”.

“In fact, the housing crisis is now going to be sustained for a much longer period of time – it will be a decade or more.”

Plans for the Baillie Henderson Hospital redevelopment in Toowoomba

TSBE’s Development Status Report lists just over 200 projects from road, education and health infrastructure, to agricultural, industrial and sporting upgrades.

The most significant by a multi-billion dollar margin are the Border to Gowrie and Toowoomba to Kagaru sections of Inland Rail, with ARTC indicating construction should start by 2024.

That work alone is estimated to create around 2000 local jobs over five years.

Also on the approved and awaiting construction list is the $1.6 billion redevelopment of the Baillie Henderson Hospital site into a new health precinct and the $450 million Asterion medicinal cannabis propagation and processing facility at Wellcamp.

Of the proposed projects awaiting approval the most significant include the $150 million redevelopment of the Borneo Barracks at Cabarlah, Council’s $138 million upgrade of the Cooby and Cressbrook Dam spillways and the $180 million Medibis medicinal cannabis processing facility at Wellcamp.

TSBE also included New Hope Group’s proposed stage three expansion of the New Acland Coal Mine, with an estimated construction cost of $869 million.

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