A MAJOR agricultural training precinct is going on the market after it was closed by the Queensland Government in 2019.
The Longreach Pastoral College finished operations after the “Coaldrake Review” recommended the government close it and a similar college at Emerald – which sparked outrage from the local community.
The college is flanked by a significant agricultural asset, with 17, 511ha (43,000 acres) of land aggregated in the area – some of it has the ability to grow crops and large agricultural companies have shown interest in the facility in the past. Its plant was sold at an auction earlier this year.
Qld agriculture minister Mark Furner said the site will go to market later this year.
“The land and onsite campus will be offered in up to six different configurations, with details currently being finalised, to give buyers options to purchase various parcels,” Mr Furner said.
“We will be doing this through a tender process that will consider both the price offered and the proposed community benefit component as a result of their acquisition and repurposing of the site.”
Farm lobby group Agforce called for a halt to the sale at the end of last year, with hopes of bringing agricultural training back to Western Qld. Sheep and wool president Mike Pratt said he was glad to see the facility put to expressions of interest and hoped the local community had a say about the final outcome.
“We have met with the minister a couple of times with the intention of making sure the facility is not just sold to the highest bidder, but to the bidder who offered the best return to the community and to the livestock industry,” Mr Pratt said.
“I hope we can have some input into the final decision.”
Playing field has changed since 2019
Mr Pratt said the Coldrake Review was done in the heart of the drought and the playing field has changed since then – with thousands of kilometres of exclusion fencing being built, making sheep and goats a more viable prospect.
“The drought is mostly behind us and all of the commodities are doing very well, wool has bit to go yet but all the red meat prices are good,” he said.
“With the exclusion fencing that has happened throughout the west, people have a lot more confidence running small stock. People can see a future in agriculture and they are confident they can invest in agriculture.
“We are seeing the most development we have seen in a long time and we desperately need labour, but there are no young people available and no one being trained.”
Mr Pratt held a meeting in Longreach last year with most of the major pastoral companies, to work out a way to train workers for livestock properties. He said the main priority was basic training, like riding motorbikes and working safely with livestock – he referred to program Agforce
“We need to draw on the people in the city to come and work for us and if I was a parent in Brisbane I would be worried about their safety,” he said.
“I think a small course for about six months would help a lot, because the managers don’t always have time to teach them properly.”
Agforce runs a program called kids to Kids to Farms, which takes school students to properties to showcase a career in agriculture.
“At the end of the day we ask if they would be interested in agriculture as a career and about 70 percent of them say yes,” he said.
“Aside from the universities, we don’t have much of a pathway to get them from schools to the industry.”