One of the youngest super councils in Queensland, Moreton Bay Regional Council was formed by amalgamating with three other councils in 2008, and is now the third largest and one of the fastest-growing councils in Australia.
A former Australian Army soldier and long-serving local Councillor, Moreton Bay Regional Mayor Peter Flannery’s career has been dedicated to serving his country and community. A local of 26 years, Mayor Flannery has helped Moreton Bay become one of the fastest-growing council regions in Australia, and is committed to openness and transparency within the community, especially in relation to planning and development. Mayor Flannery spoke with The Australian Business Executive recently to discuss the region’s scenic hotspots, some of the impressive projects that have contributed to its rapid growth, and the council’s commitment to helping local businesses thrive in the region.
Third largest council in Australia
“What often surprises people is that Moreton Bay Region is the third largest council in Australia,” Mayor Flannery says, “with more than 460,000 residents. We are also one of the youngest super councils in Queensland, after amalgamating in 2008 from the former Pine Rivers Shire Council, Redcliffe City Council and Caboolture Shire Councils.”
The region shares a border with Brisbane City Council to the south, a significant strategic asset for the region, just 25 minutes away from the international and domestic airport, as well as the Port of Brisbane, which is just 40 minutes away.
“To the north lies Sunshine Coast Regional Council, and Somerset Regional Council to our west. Geographically, our region boasts some of the most beautiful, built-up coastal suburbs in the state along the Redcliffe Peninsula and Bribie Island.”
There are pristine bodies of water from the Pumicestone Passage to the popular Moreton Bay, from which the region derives its name. Out west is the scenic hinterland trail, beginning at the Samford Valley in the south and weaving north past Lake Kurwongbah, over Mt Mee and out to Woodford, home to the iconic Woodford Folk Festival.
“Overall the region spans more than 2,000 square kilometres. Given our huge population trajectory, it’s no surprise that the building and construction sector is currently one of our biggest industries, followed by health care services and fruit production.”
Although it is one of the younger council regions, Moreton Bay is home to the oldest European settlement in Queensland. Redcliffe was first established by explorer John Oxley, back in 1824, before it was decided Brisbane would become the capital.
“Moreton Bay is [also] one of the biggest contributors to the Australian strawberry market. Queensland supplies 40% of the nation’s strawberries, and a large bulk of those winter crops come from the Caboolture region.”
Perhaps the region’s worst kept secret is that Redcliffe is home to disco legends the Bee Gees. The council has immortalised the trio at the famous Bee Gees Way, down at the Redcliffe foreshore. Thousands of visitors flock to the region each year to uncover the roots of these Australian music icons.
Forging a collective identity
“As well as being the third largest council in Australia, we’re also one of the fastest-growing. Population-wise, we are larger than the ACT and Northern Territory combined. Our population will surpass the state of Tasmania in twenty years. To cater for this growth, we aim to build enough housing to fit an additional 240,000 residents over the next 25 years.”
This rise in housing is in line with the State Government’s expectations, outlined in the South East Queensland Regional Plan, and represents a massive opportunity for the region, both economically and culturally.
“Moreton Bay has long been a council area defined by many unique communities spread across the region. It’s something we love, but we also think it’s time Moreton Bay forged its own unique identity as a whole. Establishing a collective identity will help drive that growth in a sustainable way and shape what future development looks like.”
It’s a defining economic moment for the region, as it will expand existing workforces and create entirely new industries by attracting multi-national and national businesses, as well as incentivising local start-ups and small businesses, so residents won’t have to travel for work.
“One of the ways we’ve already begun catering for this growth is through the delivery of Moreton Bay’s first full-service university campus at the old Petrie Paper Mill site. Partnered with the University of the Sunshine Coast, and with contributions from Federal and State Governments, we officially opened the campus in March this year.”
This is a fundamental foundation block in the region’s expansion. It not only provides a huge economic benefit to the region but it gives future generations a direct pathway to fulfil their dreams, without having to travel outside the region. It will also help attract the brightest young minds to the region.
The university campus is just the beginning of plans for the overarching site dubbed ‘The Mill – Moreton Bay’, a 460-hectare State Government Priority Development Area with huge economic potential, and developable land 50% larger than the CBD of Brisbane.
“We have plans to turn [The Mill] into a new innovation hub that will support thousands of new jobs and create brand-new industries worth billions of dollars to the local economy,” Mayor Flannery explains.
In order to guide this development, council is establishing the Millovate Board over the site, qualified experts with the appropriate skills to ensure the right decisions are made to develop the site to protect land but also create an economic powerhouse of local jobs.
“We’ve also worked hard to turn this site into Australia’s leading koala habitat program with Endeavour Veterinary Ecology [EVE]. EVE has achieved a 22% increase in the koala population at The Mill each year since the program began in June 2017.”
At the start of the project there were 45 koalas identified on the site but as of June 2020, there have been 86 koalas counted with 27 dependent joeys. This is one of the fastest-growing urban populations of koalas in Australia.
“As the region’s name suggests, we’re blessed to be positioned on some of Queensland’s most accessible and beautiful bodies of water in the Pumicestone Passage and the Moreton Bay. We are an excellent destination for all water sports, fishing, seasonal whale-watching and beach 4WDing.”
With its close proximity to Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, the region is fast emerging as one of the strongest drive tourism markets in South East Queensland. The industry is worth $1 billion to the local economy each year, which is why plans are being made to develop the region’s scenic hinterland trail into a must-see destination.
“Council is investing $250,000 this financial year to investigate the Hinterland’s tourism potential, from the Samford Valley through our breathtaking mountain ranges to Woodford. We want to inspire locals and travellers to get off the Bruce Highway and explore Moreton Bay by building architecturally amazing lookouts in panoramic locations around our region.”
This strategy will also focus on accessible tourism, where there is a huge market for this. The council wants to make Moreton Bay one of the most accessible destinations in Australia, and it will assess what capital investment is required to enhance tourism potential.
Hub for small business owners
Moreton Bay has long been a place of opportunity for local small businesses, but the council wants to ramp that up through a host of initiatives. In Mayor Flannery’s first address to the council, he delivered a ten-point plan to help the economy overcome coronavirus restrictions.
“Part of that was a commitment to deliver an Economic Development Strategy within the first 100 days of this term, which is due on August 6 . This bigger, bolder and brighter blueprint will drive job creation and economic development for the next 20 years.”
The Moreton Bay region is home to 33,000 small businesses – the highest per capita of any local government in Australia. The council wants to help existing businesses expand and attract new businesses to the region to create more local jobs so locals spend less time commuting and more time at home with their families.
“We know times have been tough for some, so our recently delivered budget will provide stimulus for the local economy with a $220 million capital works program, $32.9 million in coronavirus stimulus initiatives and $1 million to outsource design projects to local businesses. I am probably most proud of our new local procurement policy, that really aims to help local businesses not just through this pandemic, but into the future.”
Moreton Bay is one of the most exciting regions, not only in Queensland, but in Australia. It is open for business and expansion, aiming to support a growing population. This is something the council wants to deliver in a sustainable way and with the collaboration of the community as a new identity for the emerging region is forged.
“Our lifestyle is the envy of many,” Mayor Flannery concludes. “Surrounded by the beautiful hinterland and coastal reaches, it is a great place to raise a family and do business. So if you are thinking about a new location for your company or want to be part of the exciting innovation precinct at The Mill – give us a call, we would love to have you!”
Moreton Bay looks all set to continue its impressive growth, with important new economic projects helping small businesses thrive in the area. Find out more about Moreton Bay Regional Council by visiting www.moretonbay.qld.gov.au/Home.