AFTER Bundaberg missed out on securing a youth training hub from the Federal Government earlier this month, local developer John Santalucia is calling on the 10 federal candidates to address youth unemployment.
AFTER Bundaberg missed out on securing a youth training hub from the Federal Government earlier this month, local developer John Santalucia is calling on the 10 federal candidates to address youth unemployment. contributed SANTA03

Santalucia's huge land offer to boost Bundy's job growth

AFTER Bundaberg missed out on securing a youth training hub from the Federal Government earlier this month, local developer John Santalucia is calling on the 10 federal candidates to address youth unemployment.

Mr Santalucia is willing to donate almost 390ha of quality agricultural land with hopes it could be used as an agricultural training hub.

An advocate for youth employment in agriculture, Mr Santalucia donated more than 30 hectares of land to the State Government in 1989 to establish a farming training college that operated for eight years.

In 1998, Mr Santalucia helped to re-establish the training college by providing further funding and enabling it to evolve into Burnett Youth Learning Centre which continues to operate today.

TRAINING HUB: John Santalucia is willing to donate almost 390ha of quality agricultural land with hopes it can be used as an agricultural training hub.
TRAINING HUB: John Santalucia is willing to donate almost 390ha of quality agricultural land with hopes it can be used as an agricultural training hub. Google Earth

The new land, which is now used for growing sugar cane, has water security with three dams and access to bore water, Goodwood Rd frontage and will adjoin the centre.

Data from the 2016 Census shows agriculture, forestry and fishing industry is the third largest employer in the region and represents more than 3300 jobs or 9.8 per cent of the region's total workforce.

Bundaberg is one of the largest production horticulture regions in Australia, growing a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, nuts and herbs.

With an estimated annual farm gate value of more than $500 million, the industry injects more than $1 billion into the local economy and plays an integral role in the nation's food security.

With the federal election looming, Mr Santalucia has called on the candidates to have their say on how the land could be used to benefit the Bundaberg community and address youth unemployment.

"Our hope is that it might ultimately lead to the creation of a world-class agricultural college which would be a huge benefit to our region,” a Santalucia Corporation spokesman said.

Last year Mr Santalucia offered a block of land to health authorities for the site of a new Bundaberg hospital.

Candidates respond

NINE of the 10 candidates for Hinkler have responded to Mr Santalucia's offer with how they would use the land.

Animal Justice Party candidate Amy Byrnes did not respond by deadline.

Joseph Ellul, UAP

CANDIDATE: Joseph Ellul has been named as the Hinkler candidate for the United Australia Party.
CANDIDATE: Joseph Ellul has been named as the Hinkler candidate for the United Australia Party. Contributed

"HAVING skilled farmers is of vital importance as is the food they produce for our future.

How the government had the audacity to close any agricultural colleges is beyond belief. At least they weren't sold to an overseas company like our ports and farmlands.

Just as some people want to become accountants or tradies, some want to become farmers to provide for our future. There needs to be a place for them to learn. Farming is a skill and needs to be taught.

God bless Mr Santalucia for the proposed donation. The United Australia Party will use profits from reintroduced mineral processing plants and the profits from correctly taxing foreign companies that exploit our minerals to boost youth training and employment. An ag college for one of Australia's largest primary producing areas just makes sense.”

Aaron Erskine, FACNP

"IT IS clear to me that Mr Santalucia has a thorough understanding of the challenges facing farmers in regard to financial and time constraints.

And further, the region's high youth unemployment.

I fully support this proposal in principal and would if elected, exercise due diligence and facilitate a full cost benefit analysis to gain federal funding and lobby for the government's full support.

My eldest son graduated Year 12 last year and I fully understand the challenges facing his peers, particularly when 30 or so applicants apply for a single apprenticeship.

There is an increasing global demand for food productivity and security, and increasing challenges facing farmers.

Combined with the knowledge and generosity of Mr Santalucia this is an opportunity that should be fully considered. To offer unemployed youth a training path leading to employment is a win for our youth, industry and region.”

Damian Huxham, PHON

ELECTION: One Nation candidate for Hinkler Damian Huxham.
ELECTION: One Nation candidate for Hinkler Damian Huxham. contributed

"FIRSTLY, that is an amazing gesture by local developer John Santalucia.

The recent disappointing decision by the state Labor Government to close the Longreach Pastoral College and the Emerald Agricultural College, both established in the 1960s, was heartbreaking for generations of Queenslanders.

I would agree with Mr Santalucia and believe there is now an overwhelming need for an accredited agricultural training facility within our region and with the recent closures there is an opportunity with a donation of land this substantial, to work toward an accredited agricultural training centre.

Our region is full of opportunity. If we can set up an accredited agricultural training facility we can train and retain the next generation of skilled workers for our region. If elected, I would accept the challenge of working towards creating an accredited agricultural training centre.”

Anne Jackson, Greens

Anne Jackson, Greens candidate for Hinkler.
Anne Jackson, Greens candidate for Hinkler. Contributed

"I SUPPORT more investment in training, infrastructure and renewables to help create the jobs of the future to combat our community's rising youth unemployment levels.

I also support free university and Tafe so that our young people can develop the skills and knowledge they need to compete in the changing economy without being saddled with thousands of dollars of debt.

As for the donated land, I believe that development decisions should only be made after full consultation with the community so that people have a say in our local planning system.

I also believe that development decisions should always be ecologically sustainable with full consideration of the local environment and habitat.”

Moe Turaga, IND

ELECTION: Independent candidate for Hinkler Moe Turaga.
ELECTION: Independent candidate for Hinkler Moe Turaga. contributed

THIS is a great example of local farmers getting involved in finding solutions for our local youth.

I'm speechless.

If the Federal Government can provide the infrastructure to this piece of property that's a win win for the area.

It will provide a global agricultural output for our youth.

Tactile education is so needed.

Animal husbandry for our youths, (it would) be so awesome.

I want to be a part of this conversation, elected or not.

Most of our young people are travelling to Gatton or Emerald for this opportunity.

Environmental educational settings should be reintroduced in our education system.

David Norman, IND

Hinkler Candidate David Norman, IND
Hinkler Candidate David Norman, IND Contributed

"THE proposed donation of this land by John Santalucia for the purpose of training regional youth is a generous offer.

It is prime land well suited to many agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture training projects. It would be a greatly needed training facility that would draw young and mature-aged people.

I left my Monto home at age 16 and spent five years at the Queensland Agricultural College to study agriculture, animal husbandry, stock and meat inspection and food science. A local facility would have been a highly valued option to keep me and others students from around the state learning and earning in their local community.

To advance this training facility to its full potential, I propose both State and Federal governments be involved and collaborate with local primary producers (including Mr Santalucia). I would be very keen to work with all interested people.”

Richard Pascoe, ALP

Richard Pascoe, Labor's candidate for Hinkler.
Richard Pascoe, Labor's candidate for Hinkler. Mike Knott BUN

"THE offer by Santalucia to gift a large portion of land for agricultural training purposes is to be rightfully acknowledged.

In too many towns and regional centres across Australia, Tafe campuses have closed, courses have been scaled back and fees have increased under the current government. A Shorten Labor government will invest in more and better jobs by guaranteeing two thirds of public vocational education funding goes to Tafe.

If elected, I will work with all relevant stakeholders to assess the viability of establishing an agricultural training facility in Bundaberg. With such a generous offer, we need to make sure we get it right and any investment will drive results.

We need to make sure there is the demand. In 1989 land was donated for a farming training college that shut after eight years. We need to make sure we get it right this time.

This will only work if farmers, industry and training providers work together.”

Keith Pitt, LNP

SUGAR MILL INVESTMENT: Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt.
SUGAR MILL INVESTMENT: Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt. Mike Knott BUN220419PITT1

THE Federal Government for many years has supported training young people and we realise the benefit this gives to business, industry and farmers.

We believe a vocational education is just as valuable as a university degree. We're strengthening the VET sector through the $525m Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package and an additional $60m to expand the Australian Apprenticeships Wage Subsidy trial in the regions. That's why we fund the Burnett Youth Learning Centre to train young people in agriculture to the tune of $742,000 per year and $11,290,500 over 10 years.

This very generous proposed donation of land from Mr Santalucia would potentially allow the Burnett Youth Learning Centre to expand.

I would encourage him to formalise plans with the Burnett Youth Learning Centre management to formulate a business case to put to industry, local, State and Federal governments.

Adrian Wone, IND

ELECTION: Hinkler independent candidate Adrian Wone.
ELECTION: Hinkler independent candidate Adrian Wone. Tahlia Stehbens

THIS would be a perfect site to establish our first sugar powered generator when we convert the sugar cane industry into a renewable energy industry.

Because this is such marginal land there is also an opportunity to continue sugar cane culture here in the form of an experimental farm where we can look for ways to make this type of land productive. We need to do more controlled research on moisture retention in low grade soils such as this.

Some of the land unsuitable for agriculture could be utilised as solar farms and there is enough land available to host the Agricultural College suggested. This land could be part of an innovation hub similar to Silicon Valley USA.

Bundaberg was once a world leader in sugar cane technology and innovation. This is an industry now teetering on collapse. This land could be a step to regain our leadership in sugar cane technology and show the way forward for our local economy.


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