Bligh banks on Games for growth

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh is banking on population growth and the Commonwealth Games to fast track infrastructure development on the Gold Coast.

The Premier says the Gold Coast’s population, predicted by some industry experts to reach one million residents by 2027, will continue to boom and careful planning is required to maintain the city’s quality of living.

“Without a doubt I think it is one our greatest challenges at the moment, but it is also one of our greatest opportunities,” says Bligh.

“The overwhelming sense from most people is that we can’t put our head in the sand and it’s not a question of if we will grow at all, it’s a question of how we grow and how we manage that.

“It’s not a choice of between closing down the borders and just letting it rip. But somewhere in the middle there we have the chance to grow sustainably and enhance the quality of life, not diminish it.”

With no clear finishing date on motorway and rail upgrades, many of the Gold Coast’s property industry leaders are concerned by the implications of the population boom and how the State Government is planning for the long term.

Dodging specific questions on timeframes, Bligh uses the development of the Gold Coast over the last 40 years as an indication of how the quality of life can improve if a clear infrastructure plan is implemented to keep up with population growth.

“We’ve not only seen public investment in it but private investment and considerable expansion for private education, considerable investment into private health facilities as well as massive public investments; and neither of those would have happened if the Gold Coast still had the same population as it did when I grew up here in the 1960s and 70s,” says Bligh.

“What that growth has done is generate a population base that has sustained investment in infrastructure both public and private investment and it has made it a better place to live. That population has driven benefits and prosperity and opportunity and we need to make sure that will continue to deliver that.”

With serious momentum building behind the Gold Coast’s bid for the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Premier says securing the event could fast track some infrastructure projects on the government’s priority list.

“If we get the Commonwealth Games then we’ve got a very clear deadline and a line of sight for planning an investment over the next eight years,” she says. “I think much of what will happen over that time would be things that are going to happen anyway, but the Games might help to bring them forward.”

Bligh also indicated the State Government will work with Gold Coast City Council on an initiative to ‘explicitly’ advise residents on where development will occur and on what scale.

She says many people are not aware of the current restrictions on development and believe a high rise building ‘could just be built next door’.

“That’s not going to happen,” she says.

“There are always going to be some real development centres and we need to work much more carefully on clearly saying to communities that ‘nothing much is going to change for you, your neighbourhood will pretty much look the same in 10 or 20 years from now.’ And people can make their own choices regarding that.”

The Premier again defended the decision to put State Government-owned assets up for sale, saying the ‘easy’ option of retaining these assets would push back local infrastructure upgrades such as the rapid transit project.

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