After more than 50 years of training the future leaders of agriculture, the former Longreach Pastoral College will finally go up for sale this year.
- The state government will appoint an agent to process the sale
- There were only nine students when it shut down in 2019
- Longreach resident Rosemary Champion says the sale is disappointing
Four years after the facility was closed, the Queensland government says it is preparing the facility for sale through an expression of interest process.
But a prominent Longreach resident says she worries there is no guarantee the new owner will reinstate agriculture training programs previously run at the facility.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Rural Communities Mark Furner said a number of parties had expressed interest in the facility.
“I expect there will be strong competition for the sale,” he said.
The Queensland government has today confirmed the 17,511-hectare site could be split up and sold as separate entities, depending on what the successful tender required.
When considering who would be successful in purchasing the facility, Mr Furner said it would be dependent on two factors.
While Mr Furner would not confirm if keeping an element of agricultural training was a condition of the successful tender, he said there was “every possibility” that agricultural training would return to the facility.
Minister says online training popular
Mr Furner said a drop in demand for agricultural training was the reason the facility closed — there were only nine students when it shut down in 2019.
“People have walked away from residential training,” he said.
“That’s why people are training online through websites or universities that offer that training on the web.
But Longreach resident Rosemary Champion disagrees.
Ms Champion’s father, Sir James Walker, was one of the founders of the college. Ms Champion also previously sat on the board.
She said the college was a vital service in regional Queensland, and it had been effectively mothballed by the state government.
“The government wasn’t adequately funding the college … the state government never cared about agricultural training,” Ms Champion said.
“It is so important in Queensland and across Australia, and we do need more young people to be well trained and proud to be in agriculture.
Ms Champion said there was no political will to support an agricultural college.
“It’s just been death by strangulation,” she said
However, the state government said it had invested $9.75 million in agriculture training infrastructure over the next two financial years.
Turn facility into disability hub
While news of the sale was disappointing, Ms Champion said it was a relief the facility would no longer be owned by the state government.
“I think if it’s going to be reinstated as an agricultural training facility, it’s going to need an enormous amount of money and an enormous amount of goodwill,” she said.
“And while ever the state government owns it, we’ll never see that.”
Ms Champion said if it could not be a training facility, she hoped a push to have it used as a disability housing hub was successful.
“There is no respite care for people with disabilities, or accommodation, west of the great divide,” she said.
Ms Champion said while not all of the rooms were suitable for independent living, the facility had huge potential
“What I’d hate to see… is it sold to the highest bidder,” she said.
“I think that would be the biggest tragedy.”
Hopes for an early settlement
Mr Furner said the state government was in the process of appointing an agent to process the sale of the college, but he was hopeful a new owner would be found before the end of the year.
“It’s expected that tenders will take around six weeks through that marketing campaign,” Mr Furner said.
“Further to that about 14 weeks in terms of looking at the settlement of expressions of interest.
“So it’s getting close towards the end of the year… it could very well flow into next year.”