Fraser Coast soothes the growing pains

Fraser Coast, Queensland
“Where we thought there would be a slowdown, it just hasn’t happened.” Mayor of Fraser Coast Regional Council, Mick Kruger. Image: Peter Lik, Tourism Queensland.

By Jo Cooper

As the economic downturn slows development across the nation, Queensland’s Fraser Coast – which includes the cities of Hervey Bay and Maryborough – appears to be bucking the trend.

Located about 300km north of Brisbane, the area’s development figures demonstrate its resilience, according to the mayor of Fraser Coast Regional Council, Mick Kruger.

Queensland dwelling approvals in the quarter to January this year dropped almost 50 per cent on average quarterly figures since 2004, while Fraser Coast approvals fell about 33 per cent. The coast has continued to perform strongly.

“We’re fortunate. In April this year 71 [single-dwelling] development applications came in and 65 went out, just for the month,” Cr Kruger told GovernmentNews.

“Where we thought there would be a slowdown, it just hasn’t happened.”

The bracket experiencing difficulty is major developments between $40 million and $100 million, “but the others, anything from $5 million to $20 million, are still going along”.

The reason, according to Cr Kruger, is that people remain entranced by the region, particularly Hervey Bay. With a population of about 60,000, the city is forecast to house more than 100,000 residents by 2025.

Hervey Bay, a launching pad to nearby Fraser Island and activities such as whale watching, has been named the happiest place in Australia in at least one survey. However, an unemployment rate of about 7 per cent shows that the area still faces challenges.

“That’s pretty high … it does concern [us]," Cr Kruger said.

He noted that a food bank in the city was experiencing high usage recently.

"They say they just can’t keep up the supplies. So there’s a definite need there.”

He said providing and maintaining good infrastructure, including roads, water and sewerage systems, was also an ongoing financial issue for the council.

Census figures reveal a higher median age for Fraser Coast residents – 43 as opposed to the Queensland median of 36. This reflects the area’s historic appeal to retirees.

Cr Kruger said this was beginning to shift, however, with many schools at capacity as more people in their 30s and 40s relocated to the Fraser Coast.

Another recent trend was a spike in people relocating from south-east Queensland, particularly the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast, in search of a more affordable lifestyle. With four-bedroom house-and-land packages still available at $300,000, the attraction is clear.

The mayor believes the area’s reputation for happy citizens is safe.

“When you’re walking up the street everyone says hello, even if they don’t know you. They don’t just walk past.”

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