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$40b economy: The local council with a bold plan to be bigger than Tasmania

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The Moreton Bay region north of Brisbane is set to embark on an ambitious economic development plan with the aim of creating 100,000 new jobs and doubling the size of the local economy to $40 billion – bigger than that of Tasmania – over the next 20 years.

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Moreton Bay Regional Council will tomorrow decide to formally adopt its new regional economic development strategy, which will dictate how the region will attract new industries, jobs and residents as it recovers from the impact of COVID-19.

A largely unsung driver of economic growth in southeast Queensland until now, Moreton Bay is Australia’s third largest municipality behind Brisbane and the Gold Coast and a mecca for young families attracted by comparatively cheap house prices and a growing employment market.

While it includes coastal towns such as Redcliffe and Bribie Island, the region stretches as far west as the D’Aguilar National Park and takes in most Greater Brisbane suburbs north of Arana Hills.

More than 80,000 new residents have moved into the region over the past 12 years, with the population expected to grow by another 240,000 by 2041. It is forecast to exceed the population of Tasmania sometime in the next decade. The intent of the new economic development strategy is to exceed the size of the island state’s economy as well.

“A new regional strategy is required which recognises, leverages and capitalises on the opportunities associated with these changes whilst also acknowledging the region’s traditional industries and growth sectors,” a report to tomorrow’s council meeting states.

“Without a vibrant and growing economy, there would be a lack of jobs, income and wealth, which in turn would cause a number of far reaching social and community issues.”

It says adopting the strategy would ensure economic and jobs growth would be about 19 per cent better than if no firm development plan was pursued.

The strategy stakes the region’s chances on four broad industry sectors to drive jobs and growth – advanced manufacturing, food and agribusiness, tourism, sport and major events and knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship.

The strategy proposed an annual economic “scorecard” to track changes and trends across the regional economy.

It identifies proposed or recently completed projects as crucial to achieving its aims, including The Mill redevelopment at Petrie where the University of the Sunshine Coast opened a new campus last year and the $2.7 billion North Harbour residential and commercial development on the banks of the Caboolture River.

The adoption of the strategy at tomorrow’s council meeting is likely to be a formality as it has undergone several drafts and reviews since last year’s elections.

The council last August recruited the former head of economic development at Sunshine Coast Council, Paul Martins, to drive the strategy.

At the time Moreton Bay Mayor Peter Flannery said: “Paul Martins has a proven track record of successfully attracting new industries that provide a high level of economic value, so I’m excited to see what he will do in this new role as we ambitiously work to become the innovation hub of South East Queensland.”

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