February 17, 2017
Townsville, the sprawling tropical city on the shores of magnificent Cleveland Bay, was hit hard in January last year when the first of just under 800 workers were ushered out of Clive Palmer’s failing Yabulu Nickel Refinery.The sackings sent the city, already stung by the mining downturn, into a decline, culminating in an 11 per cent unemployment spike in November, which was four times that of the halcyon days of 2008. One in five young people is without a job.
It is a blow for a region that, analysis by consultants AEC Group shows, has seen population growth slip from one of Queensland’s best to below the state average in the past two years.Residential building approvals peaked eight years ago and have not recovered. House prices have been trending down since 2010 and the 7 per cent vacancy rate is among the state’s worst. But eternal optimist Jenny Hill, in city hall for 20 years and mayor for five, has maintained a “glass half-full’’ philosophy, concentrating on securing a “City Deal’’ with the State and Federal governments.That deal was sealed in December, promising, in Cr Hill’s words, “a momentous 15-year commitment to bring to life a shared vision for Townsville”.The City Deal, the first in Queensland, will send a shot of financial adrenaline through the city and surrounding regions valued at $250 million. Townsville will have a new development corporation while the new waterfront stadium for the Cowboys will form part of an entertainment and waterfront precinct complementing the Strand development delivered by previous mayor Tony Mooney after Tropical Cyclone Sid dropped a deluge on the city in 1988.Matthew Kelly, senior economist with consultants AEC Group in Townsville, said: “Without question, Townsville has endured one of the worst economic downturns in its history.
Source:News Corp Australia
“While it will take many years for the city to recover from such an economic setback, a range of regional developments and initiatives, including the $250 million Stadium North Queensland and Associated Priority Development Area, $22 billion Adani Carmichael project and the Upper Ross ($255 million) and Sun Metals ($155 million) solar farms have the potential to drive significant regional growth over the coming years, and will support business and consumer confidence in the region.”The real economic grunt that will drive Townsville forward in the decade ahead lies in its port, now headed by CEO Ranee Crosby. Her energetic administration has created a dynamic transportation hub that last year broke trade records in zinc, fertiliser and refined copper, even as one of its best customers, Yabulu Nickel Refinery, ground to a halt.The port last July also announced a direct shipping service between Townsville and Shanghai, opening up extraordinary potential for primary producers. “Over the next five years the Port of Townsville will facilitate significant projects and initiatives that will cement its place as northern Australia’s premier trade and logistics hub,’’ Ms Crosby said.Peter Lindsay, the former federal defence minister who joined the council in 1985 and continues a three-decade stint of service to the city, said it was impossible to underestimate the port’s potential.Cruise ships are also making Townsville a destination with Ms Crosby’s team lobbying for a wider channel for bigger vessels. But Mr Lindsay said the big item was the possible naval base at the port.Originally published as Port linking to booming Asia