AgForce is calling on the State Government to hold off the sale of Longreach Pastoral College so it can be restored to its former glory as an agricultural teaching centre.
It comes after Longreach Regional Council turned down an offer from the Government to purchase the facility, saying it was unable to afford the required funding and resources.
Although the Remote Area Planning and Development Board (RAPAD) currently has a permit-to-occupy that has been extended to mid-2022, it is now unclear what will happen at the site when the permit runs out.
AgForce Sheep and Wool President Mike Pratt said it was now up to the Government to step in for the sake of the agriculture industry and the importance of rural training.
“It saddens me that both the council and RAPAD have failed to either re-purpose, reinvigorate, or purchase the asset after two years of holding the keys, and now its fate once again lies in the hands of the Government,” he said.
“It’s imperative that the college is not sold until all options to re-introduce rural training within the facility have been exhausted, and AgForce is determined to salvage as best an outcome as we possibly can at this eleventh hour.
“We have taken the time to consult with our stakeholders and now want to engage potential users to build a strong case to present to Government and will be requesting a meeting with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.”
Longreach Pastoral College was closed by the Government in 2019, and since then RAPAD has attracted a number of short-term tenants, including a Telstra call centre, and a small-scale slaughterhouse operation.
Mr Pratt said it made no sense for the Government to have recently invested more than $30 million to double wool and meat value to $227m within five years, without further investment into training to address the labour shortfall these goals will create.
“AgForce surveys have unearthed a huge demand for broadacre agricultural training in northern Australia that makes the Longreach Pastoral College a viable option once again,” he said.
“Corporate employers alone take on 160 new employees every year.
"They desperately want them trained up in workplace, health and safety, basic property operations, basic livestock management, basic horsemanship skills, and it costs them a lot of money, time, and effort to do that training themselves.”
Longreach is the last remaining college of Queensland’s five agricultural colleges shut down by the Government.
The State currently doesn’t have any training for young adults seeking a career in agriculture other than short specific courses at TAFE or a university degree.
AgForce General President Georgie Somerset said AgForce would not give up the fight to reinstate the college as a viable agricultural training site.
“Agriculture is an essential industry and providing industry-relevant training is vital to ensuring the current and future workforce is ‘job ready’ with the skills needed,” she said.
“The worst-case scenario would be for the Government to sell the college assets, resulting in a break-up of the property and its various facilities.
"We are seeking representation with the Premier and we will find a solution.”
For media comments contact:
AgForce Sheep and Wool President Mike Pratt 0427 585 939
AgForce General President Georgie Somerset 0428 390 984