The news this week the state government is closing the agricultural training colleges in Longreach and Emerald is disappointing.
In a visit to Longreach this week Agriculture Minister Mark Furner made the announcement the Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges will be scrapped at the end of 2019 following a review by Professor Peter Coaldrake.
Across Queensland 108 staff will be affected by the colleges’ closure and Mr Furner defended the decision saying the model was outdated.
“In this government we have poured millions of dollars into this program to try and keep it viable,” Mr Furner said. “But we have drawn a line in the sand today and have decided to close the college.”
Mr Furner said the Coaldrake Review found demand for traditional agricultural industry training has been declining for years and more flexible options were needed with a transition to more modern, cost-effective training.
The government will initially invest $7 million to ensure current students can complete their qualification or studies at the colleges next year or through a supported transition to other training providers, redeploy or retrain staff, establish a project management office with local support provided to students and staff, and work with the local communities to determine the best future use of college facilities.
Government opponents take a different view.
Opposition leader Deb Frecklington called it a “callous decision” saying a generation of young country people would lose valuable opportunities to forge careers in farming.
Katter’s Australian Party MPs called it an “unrelenting attack on rural values” and state leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter said their offices had been inundated with complaints about the closures.
“I find it purely insulting that so much of the decision-making in rural, regional and remote Queensland is being driven by researchers and officers that are not based in their area of influence,” Mr Katter said.
“The LNP closed and sold off the Burdekin Agriculture College and Toorak Station at Julia Creek, so they are in no position to criticise any of this.”