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The little region that could: Scenic Rim reinvents itself to get beyond disasters

Statewide

A southeast Queensland community hit hard by natural disasters and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is counting on a resurgence of drive tourism and a welter of big music and environmental festivals to get it back on the road to prosperity.

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The Scenic Rim region, based in and around Beaudesert, Boonah and the Great Dividing Range, is investing millions of dollars in projects aimed at attracting visitors from Brisbane and other major urban areas to drive the local economy.

In the process it is seeking to reinvent itself from being a largely rural community sometimes criticised for being “stuck in the past” to a region taking full advantage of its tourism appeal and natural environment.

The region has had to pick itself up after devastating bushfires in September last year wiped out some of its major tourism infrastructure, including the Binna Burra Rainforest Lodge. Its major annual tourist drawcard, the Eat Local Week food festival, was cancelled this year due to the pandemic.

Agriculture and tourism are the region’s two major industries, worth about $466 million a year to the region. However, ongoing drought, the fires and then the restrictions and lockdowns associated with the pandemic damaged businesses across the board, from high-end tourism accommodation left without visitors to farmers supplying restaurants forced to shut their doors to diners.

However, it has proven adept at tapping into the recovery funding offered by both the federal and state governments and channelling it into new events and promotions aimed at reviving the local economy next year.

Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen has put the economic benefit from the various festivals and events planned next year at $5.5 million.

“Council has been extremely successful in attracting bushfire and COVID funding support for regional events, and we cannot wait to cement the Scenic Rim’s reputation as a region known for its vibrant tourism offerings and genuine visitor experiences,” he said.

First up will be the Great Gondwana Festival in March to showcase one of the region’s main attractions, the Lamington National Park. The festival will include events to mark the re-opening of Binna Burra but will also involve other businesses such as O’Reilly’s and local trekking companies in a bid to encourage visitors to stay in the region longer.

In April, the region will host a light opera and music festival dubbed “Popera in the Paddock” and hopes the event will attract more than 4000 people and generate around $1.3 million for the local economy.

Christensen hopes the region’s biggest event next year will remain the Eat Local Week festival, which will be a bigger affair in 2021 thanks again to bushfire recovery funding.

Key to getting such funding was collaboration with the likes of the Brisbane Economic Development Agency and the Queensland Music Festival.

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