CHDC 2020-21 Annual Report

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Annual Report 2020–21

Central Highlands Development Corporation

Contents Chairman’s Report


Our Team


Visitor Economy


CEO’s Foreword


2020–21 Highlights


Agribusiness and Agtech


About Us


Regional Development


Our Board


Business Facilitation


Acknowledgement of Country

Testimonials 26

Front cover

We respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands across the Central Highlands and respect the Elders – past, present and emerging – for they hold the stories about the rivers and mountains, the traditions, the cultures and hopes of Australia’s First Nation Peoples.

Central Highlands Development Corporation released the Central Queensland Highlands Visitor Guide and Touring Map in June, which forms part of the new tourism brand story. Read about the projects on pages 17 and 21


Image: Blackdown Tableland National Park

Central Highlands Development Corporation

Chairman’s Report Whilst there can be no novelty in our ‘new’ COVID world, we can now purposefully attest and acknowledge that things may never be the same again as global and national economies continue to transition. Our region continues its positive response to many of the changed management approaches to community movement in and out of the State and to the challenges of job vacancies that prevail in our vital industries. The Central Highlands Development Corporation (CHDC) has never been one for wanton introversion but has substantively reviewed its operations and strategic direction under the leadership of CEO Arjan Bloemer. It is timely and consolidates the important structure of CHDC to ensure its sustainability and effective role as the region’s key economic development vehicle. Clarity of priorities has seen our CHDC team focus and strengthen, then build on our key industries, particularly the visitor economy as it becomes more prominent in these times of restricted movement. The development and implementation of the Central Queensland Highlands brand story was perfectly timed to capitalise on inherent new traveller behaviour and interest in visiting our region. Considerable improvement to resources, collateral and our visitor information centres mean we are better equipped to attract and guide the increasing waves of visitors. The Central Highlands’ reputation as one of the nation’s most exciting agricultural regions continues to grow and our organisation continues its focus on adoption and adaption of technology into this traditional industry that contributes $1 billion to our economy annually. CHDC’s pioneering AgFrontier agtech program and key government partnerships ensure the ongoing creation of a circular agricultural economy that is regenerative and retains our youth in their home region in the jobs of tomorrow. CHDC’s advocacy work is also hugely important. We continue to collaborate with Central Highlands Regional Council (CHRC) to consider future uses of the former agricultural college, a key piece of infrastructure for industry, our communities and new opportunity around technology and training.

Another key advocacy support role has been to facilitate the launch of Queensland Beef Corridors at Beef Australia 2021 in May. This project is leveraging the combined strength of seven local government authorities to attract $400 million of road improvements to several key transport routes. The event in Rockhampton, attended by 88 key state and federal politicians and industry stakeholders, is now building into a strong and effective advocacy brief. I am pleased to report annually that the greatest constant in CHDC’s performance is the dedication and determination of our staff and board. I am humbled by the self-generation within our corporation to improve and foster better outcomes for business, our community and our region. My sincere thanks to our board members for their energy and commitment. Our region is in good hands. Cr Kerry Hayes Chair, Central Highlands Development Corporation Mayor, Central Highlands Regional Council

Annual Report 2020–21


CEO’s Foreword

The key aspiration for my first year at the helm of CHDC was to bring a fresh pair of eyes to support and sustain the excellent work the organisation had already been undertaking. However, as this Annual Report demonstrates, 2020–21 arguably turned out to be one of CHDC’s most productive years ever. This accomplishment is especially astonishing against the backdrop of unprecedented change brought about by the global pandemic. One of CHDC’s most notable achievements was our multipronged bolstering of our region’s agriculture industry, from nurturing agtech startups with innovation missions to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, to workshops that armed producers with often neglected but critical business skills. AgFrontier entered its second phase to create a world-leading ag and food tech community and the innovation program is now established as among the best of its kind in the nation. It was also a pivotal 12 months for CHDC’s quest to develop the region’s visitor economy, with the launch of our new tourism brand story and events platform. On their own, they signalled a significant escalation in the region’s promotion as a visitor destination. Yet, serendipitous timing meant the initiatives also positioned us to gain maximum leverage from a new, pandemic-influenced, influx of travellers into regional Queensland. Our support of local business to build capacity and capability was most clearly demonstrated in the many events presented across the year – all designed to instil participants with relevant information and skills applicable to their business. Keynote speakers, legendary Paralympian Kurt Fearnley and world-renowned body language expert Allan Pease, were particular highlights. Our packed calendar of events was also quite the feat for an era that demanded constant adjustments and flexibility to meet the ever-changing restrictions and border closures.


Central Highlands Development Corporation

Advocacy, partnership building, and investment attraction continued to be important endeavours for CHDC. We participated in working groups and task forces to help shape relevant local, state and federal policies on issues such as labour shortages and digital connectivity, that impact our region. All these outcomes speak to the strong foundations of CHDC – the adaptability and dedication of our staff and the expertise and guidance of our board. It’s been an honour to lead such a dynamic organisation and I look forward to another productive year ahead. Arjan Bloemer Chief Executive Officer

About Us

Central Highlands

CHDC actively partners with industry, business, government and community to drive growth, enable innovation, build capability and deliver economic outcomes. CHDC is a not-for-profit organisation and the lead economic and tourism development agency for the Central Highlands region of Queensland, Australia. Our region includes the communities of Arcadia Valley, Bauhinia, Blackwater, Bluff, Capella, Comet, Dingo, Duaringa, Emerald, Rolleston, Sapphire Gemfields, Springsure and Tieri. For more than 24 years, CHDC’s rich understanding of the local industry has allowed us to deliver economic insights and strategic action plans for the region. In turn, this has contributed to building strong, capable businesses and industries that are supply-chain ready and optimised for expansion.




Driving economic opportunities to support the Central Highlands as a dynamic inland region of choice

We advocate for a sustainable region and economic growth by enhancing our workforce, promoting our region and supporting our businesses

Our values are linked to the way we conduct business. We strive for: Accountability, Collaboration, Innovation, Credibility and Respect

Image: Central Highlands Cotton Growers and Irrigators Association tour

Annual Report 2020–21


Our Board

From left to right:

Cr Kerry Hayes, Chairman Cr Hayes has an extensive local government history, serving three terms as councillor and now his second term as Mayor of the CHRC. He is also the Managing Director of Emerald Land and Cattle Company, a business focused on livestock, rural property and water trading.

Cr Christine Rolfe, Deputy Chair Cr Rolfe is Deputy Mayor of the CHRC and Director of Birrong Grazing Company. She is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and has completed AICD’s company director, risk analysis and bookkeeping courses. She also holds qualifications in rural business management and agriculture.

Bronwyn Roberts, Independent Director Ms Roberts owns and operates two businesses supporting beef enterprises and other rural operations. Her previous employers include the Fitzroy Basin Association and Central Highlands Regional Resources Use Planning (CHRRUP). Accolades include the Queensland Red Meat Industry Awards’ 2013 Emerging Leader and finalist in two categories of the Regional Achievement & Community Awards in 2015.

The Hon. Paul Lucas, Independent Director Mr Lucas was a State Minister for 11 years including Queensland Deputy Premier from 2007 to 2011. He is a consultant to a major eastern seaboard law firm, and a non-executive Director of Energy Qld and several companies in the non-profit sector. 6

Central Highlands Development Corporation

Mr Lucas has served on the board of a number of infrastructure companies in the aviation, energy and construction sectors. He has undergraduate degrees in Economics and Law and Master’s degrees in Business Administration and Urban Planning.

Scott Mason, Company Secretary Mr Mason, CHRC CEO, served as Director and Company Secretary from August 2013 to May 2021. Thanks are extended to Mr Mason for his invaluable assistance and counsel. Company Secretary is currently filled by Michael Parker PSM, CHRC Acting CEO.

Ciarán Hallinan, Independent Director Mr Hallinan is Executive Director of BASE Industries, an Australian engineering and construction company. The experienced senior executive and company director holds qualifications in engineering and business and has a history of achievement in several public and private sector organisations.

Cr Megan Daniels, Director Cr Daniels is serving her second term with CHRC. She is a long-term resident of the Central Highlands and owns a cattle grazing business at Comet. Cr Daniels holds a Bachelor of Business – Agriculture and is a graduate of the AICD company directors' course.

Our Team Arjan Bloemer Chief Executive Officer

Peter Dowling Business and Investment Attraction

Mary Ryan Business Facilitation

Kylie Hawkins Events and Governance

Sonya Comiskey Agtech

Cassie Turner Agribusiness

Jaymie Webster Economic Recovery and Transition

Rowena Davies Marketing and Collateral

Nicky Fisher Media and Communications

Kelly Corbishley Finance and Human Resources

Hayley Lyons Adminstration

Paul Thompson Visitor Economy

Pamela Gangadoo Visitor Information Centre

Visitor Information Centre CHDC is also supported by the tireless contribution of casual and volunteer staff at our visitor information centres.



Barry Rumpf

Marcia Crosse

Alf James

Diane McNamara

Glen Wass

Marion Edwards

Carol Ferguson

Marion Edwards

Barry Spooner

Dornene Moore

Janine Mahady

Mary Tyson

Casandra Kunst

Mark McCarthy

Brant Gook

Doug Dickens

Jean Bourne

Matthew Toomey

Jody Robinson

Tanya Dickens

Bronwyn Baker

Edna Blake

Jeanette Wass

Natalie Eaves

Kym Walker

Tracey Wallin

Carol Finger

Elizabeth Wright

Jennifer Lindsay

Nola Chipman

Charles Tyson

Evie Millner

John Watkins

Rosie Dickens

Debbie Watkins

Gail Nixon

Karen Wilson

Rowan McNamara

Delma Winten

George Bourne

Lyn Challacombe

Steve Avis

Leonie Geary

Annual Report 2020–21


2020–21 Highlights

$2.3m+ secured in project grant funding, plus $175k from events, sponsors and merchandise sales

Former Agricultural College due diligence completed regarding tenure and future use (page 13)

Innovation missions to Brisbane (pictured) and the Sunshine Coast attended by 20 local agtech entrepreneurs (page 24)


Central Highlands Development Corporation



direct engagements were made with businesses (page 14)

proportion of local spend including wages

Top image: CHDC Board Indigenous Tour

Food & Fibre Plus Stage 1 completed (page 25)

AgFrontier is recognised in the top quadrant of Australian innovation programs (page 22)

What’s On

New brand


event platform launched offering one place for local event information (page 19)

for the visitor economy; Central Queensland Highlands, Explore More (page 17)

monthly social media reach, plus 184,500 webpage views per year

803 attendees to 17 events and business support workshops (Image: Economic Futures Forum)

260 jobs advertised on CQ Job Link per month (average)

Annual Report 2020–21


Regional Development Investment Development

2021 Economic Futures Forum

The Central Highlands offers a diverse and attractive mix of infrastructure, property and business opportunities. CHDC provides support and assistance to prospective investors through the production of economic reports and impact modelling, hosting site tours, introductions to business and industry connections and liaising with government representatives.

As Australia pushes through the turbulence of the global pandemic, CHDC's 2021 Economic Futures Forum took stock of how the economic landscape has shifted and explored the way forward.

Interest was received from a wide range of businesses during 2020–21, including: diesel fuel storage, pharmacy, waste to energy, mixed use residential development, mining services, transport and logistics, bio generation, meat processing, aged care, professional services, and drone training and services.

A line-up of expert speakers presented comparative data, forecasting and economic updates, to deliver a local, national and global perspective on the challenges and opportunities for local businesses. The aim was to equip operators in the Central Highlands with the knowledge and confidence required to make sustainable and viable planning decisions.

CQ Inland Port CHDC continued to advocate and provide support for the CQ Inland Port (CQIP) development (pictured), making introductions and site visits with industry and government leaders, and collaborating on the Central Highlands Freight Task Survey.


Central Highlands Development Corporation

CQIP reached a major milestone this year, with GrainCorp opening its bulk grain handling facility. It also announced a partnership with the SEAWAY Group, one of Australia’s largest diversified transport and logistics providers, to develop and operate a new multi-million-dollar intermodal facility.

Central Highlands Freight Survey The Central Highlands Freight Survey, a collaboration between CHDC, CHRC and CQIP, sought to define the quantity, type and direction of freight imported and exported from the Central Highlands region, including both road and rail options. Some of the key findings are as follows:

Exports: • 48% of businesses export goods and materials from the Central Highlands. • 43% of businesses export to an international market. • 70% of freight exported is full container loads (FCL). • 51% of businesses that export identified challenges with freight options including schedules, infrastructure and ineffective cost of small loads.

Imports: • 62% of businesses import goods and materials into the Central Highlands. • 59% of businesses import goods by road, 28.5% import by rail and air. • 48% import goods that travel through a shipping port. • 30% of businesses that import cite cost as a barrier or challenge to changing transport type.

Regions Rising National Summit CHDC represented the Central Highlands at the Regional Australia Institute’s (RAI) Regions Rising National Summit in March. The conference explored ideas and issues around fostering sustainable growth for regional businesses and communities. The Policy Hack session gave the opportunity to collectively develop ideas for policy and program reform.

Working Groups Central Highlands Resources Roundtable The Central Highlands Resources Roundtable is a collaboration between operating coal producers, CHRC and CHDC. The group has worked closely through the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to have a high level of attendance and participation.

Cooperative Research Centre for Transformation in Mining Economies The Cooperative Research Centre for Transformation in Mining Economies (CRC-TiME) brings together mining, regional development, government and research partners to addresses the challenges underpinning mine closure and relinquishment. Seven regional hubs have been established across Australia. CHDC acts as the secretariat for the Bowen Basin Regional Hub.

Queensland Local Content Leaders Network The Queensland Local Content Leaders Network advocates for local economies to maximise the local benefit of resources projects. CHDC is part of this collaboration and has actively promoted the ‘Keeping it in the Regions’ better practice model.

Fitzroy Trade and Investment Network Trade and Investment Queensland, in partnership with Regional Development Australia, has formed a network to discuss all things trade and investment with local government and regional development organisations in Central and Western Queensland.

Local Government Association of Queensland Investment Reference Group The Local Government Association of Queensland has established an investment reference group to discuss challenges and opportunities in the investment space. The group offers CHDC access to international investment briefings and the ability to share research, be involved in legislative advocacy work and pitch tours.

2020 Central Highlands Economic Profile The 2020 Central Highlands Economic Profile is a powerful resource designed to provide business, industry and government with an economic snapshot of the Central Highlands. Gross Regional Product for 2019 was $6.31 billion, representing an increase of 60%, compared to $3.93 billion the previous year. The increase is partly attributed to the mining sector, which experienced a $2 billion increase in total output to $7.08 billion. Agriculture continues to be a major contributor to the economy, valued at $1.03 billion.

Annual Report 2020–21


Indicator Demographics

Central Highlands


Estimated Resident Population




Projected Population




Resident Population Growth (Annual Average)




Resident and Non-Resident Population Growth




















Gross Regional Product




Passengers Emerald Airport



Median Age Median Personal Income (Weekly) Median Household Income (Weekly) Employment

Unemployment Rate Labour Force Non-Residential Workforce



Use the QR Code below to download the full profile

Policy Development and Review

Government & Industry Development

CHDC participated in a number of working groups to assist in the review of local, state and federal policies that impact the region:

The Central Highlands was showcased at the 2021 Queensland Government Regional Community Forum in Emerald. The forum was held to help identify and address key priorities facing our region. Ministers and regional leaders saw first hand some of the projects driving the region. The event was followed by a Ministerial Renewables and Hydrogen Forum.

• CHRC Regional Economic Development Incentive Policy • Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan • Queensland Regional Infrastructure Strategy • Queensland Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act 2017 Post Implementation Review

CHDC also participated in several industry working groups:

• Australian Government Regional Telecommunications Review

• BHP Future of Work Program

• Regional Australia Institute National Summit Policy Hack

• BHP Water Resources Situational Analysis

• UQ – Sustainable Minerals Institute – Baseline works for mine rehabilitation and closure

Economic Recovery and Transition CHDC and CHRC co-funded an initiative to coordinate the Central Highlands’ COVID-19 economic recovery and transition efforts. The project included an impact analysis, digital connectivity advocacy and due diligence investigations of the former Emerald Agricultural College site.


Central Highlands Development Corporation

Former Emerald Agricultural College As part of the 2021 State Budget, the Queensland Government announced that part of the former Emerald Agricultural College facility will be redeveloped into an innovation research hub, CQ Smart Cropping Centre. CHDC completed due diligence on the remaining areas, including the campus, to assist CHRC to make decisions regarding tenure and future use. Several businesses and industry organisations have expressed interest in locating at the site, confirming it as an attractive proposition as an innovation and training precinct.

COVID-19 Economic Impact Baseline

Gaps and Opportunities Investigation

REMPLAN was engaged to develop a COVID-19 Economic Impact Analysis to understand the pandemic’s effect on the local economy. Travel restrictions, social lockdown measures and economic impacts associated with managing the pandemic were estimated to result in a -3.5% (-$370 million) lower output for the Central Highlands over the 12 months to March 2021. This was less than the Queensland forecast of -5.4% and was influenced by the role of mining and agriculture in the local economy.

Using the REMPLAN data as a baseline, CHDC undertook an engagement program with business and industry leaders to ground-truth economic impacts and identify key regional challenges and transition opportunities.

Employment was forecast to have a -2.5% (-420) contraction to March 2021. This figure was lower than expected due to government initiatives such as the JobKeeper program. It was estimated that 19.2% of Central Highlands’ businesses had applied for JobKeeper support, as at May 2020.

Digital Connectivity

The economic impact of COVID-19 was compared to other significant historical events, namely the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and mining downturn. The report showed the mining downturn and COVID-19 had less of an impact in comparison to the GFC due to a number of factors, the most critical being the nature of the economic shock.

Gaps and opportunities that were identified include: digital connectivity, skills shortage, attraction and retention, aged care, and affordable accommodation (both long and short-term).

CHDC worked with QCN Fibre to proactively resolve identified digital connectivity gaps. QCN Fibre was successful in securing $3.75M through the Regional Connectivity Program to provide a solution for the Bluff, Duaringa and Dingo communities. The project will deliver a fixed wireless solution with fibre backhaul to provide coverage and minimum 100 megabits per second broadband to businesses and residents. CHDC will continue working with QCN Fibre, NBN Co and other telcos to develop further solutions for our region.


Annual Report 2020–21


Business Facilitation Business Support

Tap into Tenders

The Central Highlands business community was not immune to the impacts of COVID-19. In response, CHDC pivoted its traditional operations to deliver tailored services and support to businesses in need.

To help local businesses remain competitive and access the latest opportunities, CHDC distributes a weekly list of current tenders for the Fitzroy Region.

More than 800 direct engagements were made with businesses during 2020–21, providing assistance with business planning, governance, management, tenders, skills development, supply chain readiness, and grant and funding opportunities.

The 2021 Central Highlands Business Survey showed that 30% of Tap into Tenders subscribers had used information from the newsletter to submit a tender. The median success rate of those businesses was 70%.

Lunch and Learn with Allan Pease World-renowned body language expert and international best-selling author Allan Pease was the keynote speaker at CHDC’s Lunch and Learn event. Mr Pease used humour, personal stories and hard science to explain the Reticular Activating System (RAS) and how it can be used to set business goals and overcome roadblocks.

Central Highlands Businesses Bounce Back Better Forum To celebrate Queensland Small Business Month in May, CHDC and Yumba Bimbi Support Services hosted the Central Highlands Businesses Bounce Back Better Forum.

Business and government panellists offered tips on how small businesses can Bounce Back Better from the impacts of COVID-19 and other challenges.

Special guest speaker was three-time Paralympic gold medallist Kurt Fearnley, who shared tales of his sporting and life accomplishments.

The event was supported by the Department of Employment, Small Business and Training and Local Buying Foundation.


Central Highlands Development Corporation

2021 Central Highlands Business Survey

Social Media Marketing Training

The 2021 Business Survey was conducted from May to June and received 205 responses.

As part of the Central Highlands Business Excellence Awards program, CHDC ran a social media marketing and advertising course to help businesses improve their online presence. In addition to the two-hour workshop, participants benefited from one-on-one social media strategy sessions.

Key findings from the survey: • While overall performance and revenue index scores returned to pre COVID-19 levels, one in three businesses (32%) are still experiencing a negative impact from the global pandemic.

Central Highlands Business Survey COVID-19 Impact A business survey was conducted in August to understand the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey found more than half of local businesses had experienced a decrease in revenue (66%) and customers (58%). The lockdown forced businesses to shift and adapt, with almost a third (29%) reducing their operating hours, 20% changing their mode of delivery and 14% temporarily closing.

• Looking to the next 12 months, there is a good level of confidence, with 86% of businesses anticipating their overall performance will increase (42%) or at least remain the same (44%). Businesses are, however, still showing caution, with 63% placing capital investment on hold for the coming year. • Australia’s labour shortage is being felt in the Central Highlands, with four in five businesses (84%) having difficulty finding suitable staff. Not only does this impede on businesses’ ability to grow, it also puts mounting pressure on existing staff.

The index score is developed by assigning value to the qualitative survey answers, creating a rating between 1 and 100. As a guide, 50 would indicate the performance was neutral, less than 50 weaker and above 50 stronger. Respondents were asked to indicate if their business had experienced an increase, decrease or no change in the following areas:  Somewhat increase


No change


Somewhat decrease

Revenue 51 (▲ 21) 4%





The revenue index score bounced 21 points from the significant low experienced last year. Despite this index increase, two in five businesses (39%) experienced a decrease in revenue over the past 12 months. The ‘education and training’ and ‘mining’ sectors reported the greatest decrease.

Staffing 48 (▲ 8) ◀ 1%





Approximately a third (35%) of businesses experienced a decrease in staffing over the past 12 months. The ‘construction’ and ‘transport, postal and warehousing’ sectors reported the greatest decrease.

Annual Report 2020–21


Customers 57 (▲ 25) ◀ 3%





The highest increase was seen in the customer index score, growing 25 points over the past 12 months. The ‘food and beverage services’ and ‘health care and social assistance’ sectors reported the greatest increase.

Costs 81 (▲ 19) 12%




The costs index score increased 19 points over the past 12 months, with 66% of businesses experiencing a rise in costs. The ‘manufacturing’ and ‘repair and maintenance services’ sectors reported the greatest increase, possibly due to global supply chain shortages fuelling price rises.

Capital Investment 64 (▲ 7) 6%



58% of businesses made no change to their capital investment over the past 12 months. 35% increased their investment, with the ‘health care and social assistance’ sector reporting the greatest increase. Use the QR Code below to download the full survey findings



Central Highlands Development Corporation

5% 2%

Visitor Economy

Visitor Economy Strategy The Central Highlands Visitor Economy Strategy 2020–22 (CHVES) is a three-year vision led by CHDC to grow the visitor economy and develop industry capability. The strategy drives the work CHDC does in the tourism development and visitor economy space. Extensive headway has been made on key priorities during 2020–21:

Central Queensland Highlands Brand Story It’s a bold new beginning for the region’s visitor economy brand. The Central Highlands as a visitor destination has been re-named Central Queensland Highlands, with the tagline ‘Explore More’. There is also a new logo and colour palette reflecting the region’s diverse landscape, and a social media hashtag #exploreCQH.

The new branding addresses that, from a consumer perspective, the word ‘highlands’ competes with a number of destinations. By adding a geo-locator, Queensland, it distinguishes our region from other highlands and makes it easier for consumers to find on a map. The ‘Explore More’ tagline is an invitation for visitors to extend their stay. It sparks both curiosity and lays down a challenge to discover the region. The brand story is being incorporated into all visitor marketing and a toolkit has been made available for local businesses, event organisers and community groups.

Regional Events Platform CHDC launched a new events hub for the Central Queensland Highlands in June, offering locals and visitors up to date information on all the region’s events in one place. What’s On Central Queensland Highlands crowdsources event listings and consolidates advertised events from a range of platforms including Facebook and Eventbrite.

Recreational Vehicle and Camping Options and Opportunities Strategy To develop the recreational vehicle (RV) tourism market in the Central Queensland Highlands, CHDC is investigating the feasibility and business case of setting up multiple RV campgrounds throughout the region. This includes locations already used by RVs as well as new locations. The objective is to create a strategy to position the Central Queensland Highlands as a 'must do' RV destination. Feedback from site visits, regional engagement and a community survey are currently under consideration. The final report is expected in the first quarter of 2021–22.

Visitor Engagement CHDC is currently running a pilot program to staff three additional visitor information centres in the region. Identified as existing visitor touch points, Springsure Federation Woolshed, Duaringa Historical and Tourism Centre and Blackwater International Coal Centre will be manned from 10am to 3pm, seven days a week during the main tourist season (Easter to October).

Use the QR Code below to check out the new branding

Annual Report 2020–21


Great Inland Way

Year of Indigenous Tourism

Central Queensland Highlands tourism industry representatives and CHDC took on office bearer roles on the Great Inland Way Committee in 2020. The visitor map and brochure were overhauled, including rebranding the route as the ‘Ultimate Aussie Road Trip’. The website will be redeveloped in 2021–22.

As part of Queensland’s Year of Indigenous Tourism, CHDC took representatives from Woorabinda Arts and Cultural Centre and Ka Ka Mundi Tagalong Tours to Longreach and Barcaldine. The tour gave an insight into successful regional tourism businesses including the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, Outback Aussie Tours and Trackers Tours. Our local Indigenous business operators returned armed with information, ideas and inspiration to further develop their product in the Central Queensland Highlands.

Working Holidays Tackling the seasonal workforce shortage has been the focus of the Working Holidays initiative led by CHDC and supported by the Queensland Agriculture Workforce Network. Complementary to the Queensland Government’s Pick Queensland campaign, the project targets 18 to 25 year olds to work in and Explore More of the Central Queensland Highlands. CHDC has developed a suite of promotional collateral including images (pictured), videos, pull up banners, postcard and webpages. Career markets have been targeted and a social media campaign will be rolled out in the second quarter of 2021–22. Use the QR Code below to watch the Working Holidays video


Central Highlands Development Corporation

Tourism & Events Forum

Consumer Shows

CHDC's 2020 Tourism & Events Forum brought together tourism operators, industry representatives, event organisers, community groups and key leaders to discuss

CHDC partnered with Gemfest to represent the Central Queensland Highlands at the following trade shows:

the future of tourism in the Central Queensland Highlands.

NSW Caravan Camping Holiday Supershow

The day featured the launch of the brand story and event platform, keynote speakers from Outback Aussie Tours and Leisure Solutions, and shared wisdom in the Q&A and one-on-one mentoring sessions.

Stand shared with Queensland Caravan Parks Association and Fraser Coast Tourism

The following day, participants experienced an Indigenous Culture Discovery Tour with Darryl Black from Ka Ka Mundi Tagalong Tours.

The stand had over 2,000 interactions resulting in >330 interactions per day or >55 people per hour.

The Central Queensland Highlands Visitor Information Centre experienced record visitor numbers in 2020–21, up 15% from pre COVID-19 levels. The region benefited from travel restrictions as Queenslanders heeded the call to explore their own backyard. 14 (’000)


12,542 10,828


4 2 0 2018–19


Data Collection Research and data collection are a key priority of the CHVES. The visitor information centre survey was expanded in 2020–21 to identify travel behaviour in the region. Of the 5,400 visitors who completed the survey, a majority were travelling as a couple (68%), aged over 55 (87%) and live in South East Queensland (see heatmap below). Two thirds (68%) of respondents were visiting the region for three nights or less and 80% stayed in either a caravan park or free camping. The south (39%) and west (25%) are important entry points to the region. Visitors enjoyed the scenery, people, Sapphire Gemfields and Carnarvon Gorge, and would like to experience a farm (57%) or cultural (57%) tour.

8 6

Let’s Go Queensland Caravan and Camping Supershow Attendance: 40,116

Visitor Information Centre


Attendance: 61,595


There was more diversity in who visited the region, including families and younger people. They also visited much later into the shoulder season than normal. Volunteers participated in a number of familiarisation tours including Blackwater, Bedford Weir, Comet, Springsure and Minerva Hills National Park.

Annual Report 2020–21



Entry to region

Friends or family 3%

Other 6%

Free camp 20%

West 25%

Caravan park 60%

North 17%

South 39%

Motel 26%

East 19%

Most enjoyed


People/ Friendly

Sapphire Gemfields

Carnarvon Gorge



Nights in region

Additional activities


60% 29




40 19




20 9 3


0 0









Central Highlands Development Corporation

3 6

8 4









Fishing Tour

4WD Tour

0 10

Farm Tour

Cultural Tour

Marketing and Collateral Content Creation

Visitor Guide & Touring Map

An inspiring collection of photographs and videos showcasing the Central Queensland Highlands is now available to promote the region.

The Visitor Guide and Touring Map received significant makeovers to bring them in line with the new brand story.

Two shoots, taking seven days in total, visited Blackdown Tableland and Minerva Hills National Parks, Sapphire Gemfields (pictured), Emerald, Capella and Springsure. More than 450 images and five videos were created. The images are featured in the new Visitor Guide and Touring Map, socials and website. The videos were released on social media over the peak tourist period and were on rotation at the Emerald Airport and visitor information centres. Use the QR Code below to see the regional tourism video

Strong industry support saw the guide being expanded to 68 pages. New sections include trip itineraries, Indigenous attractions, fishing spots, working holidays and camping and caravanning information. The highly sought-after publications will be distributed through consumer shows, information centres and operators, and are available online. Use the QR Code below to access the new Visitor Guide and Touring Map

Annual Report 2020–21


Agribusiness and Agtech AgFrontier Regional Agtech Catalyst

Farm to Fine Dining

AgFrontier’s Regional Agtech Catalyst was launched in 2020–21 to build on the success of the Regional Agtech Incubator program. This next phase aims to create a world-leading ag and food tech community in regional Queensland which fosters innovation and grows agricultural productivity. The AgFrontier brand is now widely recognised as being in the top quadrant of innovation programs in Australia.

Since 2016, CHDC has presented the annual Farm to Fine Dining Central Highlands Regional Produce Showcase. The event brings together the best of Central Highlands produce to Brisbane for an invitation-only, three course dinner.

Regional Agtech Incubator The ground-breaking incubator program came to a close in 2020 after the inaugural participants attended the Agtech Innovation Mission to Brisbane. The cohort has delivered outstanding results, with $6.47 million in investments secured, millions of dollars in collective turnover and numerous domestic and national accolades. Use the QR Code below to watch a short video on what the program has achieved

Queensland AgTech Month Queensland’s thriving agtech community was put in the spotlight in November for Queensland AgTech Month (QAM). In collaboration with the Queensland Agtech Cluster, CHDC provided leadership to this group, hosted flagship events and participated in the QAM webinar.

Entrepreneurs in Residence Australian robotic pioneers, SwarmFarm Robotics, were appointed AgFrontier’s Entrepreneurs in Residence in November. SwarmFarm have taken on a mentoring and coaching role within the Regional Agtech Catalyst community. This has created an invaluable opportunity to learn from their insights, and experience around robotic agriculture, agtech careers and the startup journey. They have also hosted numerous visitors on-farm, including state and federal politicians and industry representatives, to promote regional agtech innovation and the Central Highlands.


Central Highlands Development Corporation

Farm to Fine Dining is one of the important ways that CHDC and the CHRC build awareness and advocate on behalf of the Central Highlands region and its businesses, as well as providing the opportunity for local producers to directly network with an influential audience.

Agribusiness and Small Enterprise Performance Workshop Series CHDC and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries collaborated with Bentleys, HWL Ebsworth Lawyers and the CHRC to deliver seven workshops targeted at supporting agribusiness and small enterprise growth. Workshops were held between February and June and addressed topics such as corporate governance, investment attraction and recruitment. The workshops were well attended, attracting 87 registrations.

Advocacy Over 2020–21, CHDC hosted visits from: • Leanne Kemp, Queensland Chief Entrepreneur (2018–2020) • Dr Sarah Pearson, Deputy Director-General, Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport • The Hon. Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology • Prof Hugh Possingham, Queensland Chief Scientist • Pat Weir MP, Shadow Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and Lachlan Millar MP, Member for Gregory

Queensland Beef Corridors Campaign

Working Holiday Maker Program

Seven local governments from Central and Western Queensland banded together to call for sufficient federal and state funds to upgrade 2,000 kilometres of strategic supply chain roads. The region represents 25% of the nation’s beef cattle herd and contributes $1.7 billion annually to the economy.

In September, the Federal Government’s Joint Standing Committee on Migration invited CHDC to appear as a witness at the Inquiry into the Working Holiday Maker (WHM) program. This was based on CHDC’s written submission, advocating for program changes to address substantial labour shortages facing the Central Highlands’ horticultural industry.

The Queensland Beef Corridors Campaign was launched with a dinner event during Beef Australia in May in Rockhampton. The event was attended by 88 beef supply chain stakeholders including state and federal politicians.

AgFrontier Beef2020 More than 80 cattle producers, startups and industry representatives attended AgFrontier Beef2020 in Emerald. The event showcased the latest innovations and technology to improve beef production operations and business outcomes.

Automation, online auction platforms, drones and innovation adoption were addressed by the line-up of speakers (pictured), including keynote Darryl Heidke, Meat and Livestock Australia. Attendees were given live demonstrations of farm safety measures and water sensor technology. The event was supported by the Local Buying Foundation and Meat and Livestock Australia.


Agtech Innovation Missions Through agtech innovation missions to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, CHDC gave 20 local agtech entrepreneurs the opportunity to gain the tools, connections and confidence to take their business to the next level.

The missions included visits to incubators and tech hubs; meetings with investors, mentors and innovation experts; and sessions on programs, accelerators and grants technology.

Participants came from the Central Highlands, Isaac and Woorabinda local government areas and had a wide range of concepts, including technology in autonomous farming, aquaculture systems, market gardening and the recording of Indigenous bush medicine history.

Mission participant, Douglas Graham from Woorabinda (pictured), has already secured an entrepreneurship program place with CQUniversity and an innovation partnership with Arrow Energy.

The missions enabled entrepreneurs to build out their network with other agtech startups and key members of the South East Queensland innovation ecosystem.


Central Highlands Development Corporation

AgFrontier hosted the mission in partnership with startup innovation specialist Startup Catalyst, with support from program partner Local Buying Foundation, as well as Advance Queensland’s Deadly Innovation and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Food & Fibre Plus The Food & Fibre Plus initiative set out to institute an inter-regional coordination and collaboration mechanism that can drive innovation and business development in rural and remote areas. The initiative encompassed the Central Queensland regions of Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Central West Queensland. More than 260 stakeholders and a reference group of 20 ‘skin-in-the-game’ champions from across Central Queensland were actively involved in the co-design process. Three virtual and hybrid workshops, and 110 liaison meetings were held.

Four themes were identified for igniting action: 1 Agritourism 2 Circular Economy Opportunities 3 Sustainable Land Management and Water Security 4 Supply and Value Chain

Key outcomes of the project have been: + Support for an inter-regional network approach from regional partners, collaborators and stakeholders. + Analysis and confirmation of key challenges, drivers for change and opportunities for innovation and new business. + Stakeholder understanding of the nature of challenges and agreement on the means to address innovation and business development gaps. + Information generated collectively, regarding capacity and capabilities for agritourism, circular economy opportunities, sustainable land management and water security and supply/value chain interactions. + Capacity building delivered through the use of virtual engagement tools, empathy mapping processes, knowledge transfer, stakeholder analysis tools and activity prioritising tools. There is strong endorsement and momentum to transition to Stage 2 of the project, which would target operationalisation, planning and implementation of the network. The project was supported by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Advance Queensland Regional Network Fund, Greater Whitsunday Alliance and Remote Area Planning and Development Board. Use the QR Code below to download the Stage 1 report


Annual Report 2020–21




Central Highlands Development Corporation

Photo credit: John Elliot

SwarmFarm Robotics (Pictured)

We are delighted to be involved as Entrepreneurs in Residence to encourage and foster the ecosystem of innovation in our region. We have experienced the highs and lows of building a high growth tech company and it’s great to be able to share our experiences with others that are embarking on a similar adventure.” Jocie Bate CFO & Cofounder

Span Engineering The AgFrontier Regional Agtech Catalyst mission to Brisbane has assisted me in gaining some fantastic new connections and great advice that has already changed the way we are running our business. I commend CHDC on their commitment to tech-entrepreneurship in Central Queensland and am grateful to be part of the AgFrontier community.” Tom Wyatt Founder

Queensland Resources Council Queensland Resource Council (QRC) is very pleased to have a chance to participate in any of CHDC’s high quality events. The Central Highlands is a really important region for the resources industry, so we’re always keen to hear an update on the region’s prospects, delivered in the region by the people who know it best – CHDC. In QRC’s experience, CHDC has the happy knack of knitting together a great line up of speakers and starting constructive discussions between different groups of regional stakeholders. That’s exactly what CHDC’s Economic Futures Forum delivered and delivered in spades. I’d highly recommend the event.”

Fairbairn Bakeries We have been to the past few CHDC forums and have found they gave a great insight to where our region is going and growing. They provided updates on what large investors are doing, and residential and commercial markets. This information is invaluable and helps us to make educated decisions when investing in our own business, so that we can keep up with the region’s demands.” Kelly Bunyoung Chief Executive Officer & Director

Andrew Barger Policy Director, Economics

Blue Gem Tourist Park QCN Fibre CHDC played a critical role in QCN Fibre’s successful application for funding under the Federal Government Regional Connectivity Program, to improve digital connectivity to Duaringa, Dino and Bluff in the Central Highlands region. The community engagement and information gathered by CHDC was key to displaying the need and benefits to the communities. I look forward to working with CHDC on further opportunities to support improved digital connectivity in the Central Highlands region.” Andrew Walpole Sales Director

CHDC has been instrumental in the development and advancement of the Central Highlands Visitor Economy Strategy 2020–2022. Through extensive industry and community consultation we have developed a new tourism brand that is easily recognisable and synonymous with our region. The Central Queensland Highlands will in time be recognised by local, state, national and international audiences. I am proud to have been part of the process and the opportunity to market our region and locale as being different, special and well worth a visit.” Ewan Letts Owner/Manager

Annual Report 2020–21


Central Highlands Development Corporation 76 Egerton Street Emerald QLD 4720

T 07 4982 4386 F 07 4982 4068 E

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