More than 500 properties in the Maranoa region are listed for sale. One Councillor is hoping a first homeowners scheme could drive more people to live in the west.
More than 500 properties in the Maranoa region are listed for sale. One Councillor is hoping a first homeowners scheme could drive more people to live in the west.

Councillor’s ambitious plan to boost Maranoa population

WITH more than 500 properties for sale throughout the 4455 postcode, one councillor is considering the potential of a first homeowners grant scheme to drive people to invest in the Maranoa.

At last week’s Maranoa Regional Council meeting, Cameron O’Neil proposed a request for an agenda report into a potential grant scheme, which would bring more permanent residents back to Roma and surrounds.

According to Cr O’Neil, the Maranoa region is experiencing a steady population decline from 13,066 in 2011 to 12,666 at the 2016 census. Over the same period the regions dwellings

have increased by approximately 380.

“The idea I’ve put to council has come from the wave we have seen in the increase and the softening of the oil and gas sector,” he said.

“And through that period, we’ve seen a lot of pressure put on the housing market, to the point where there were no houses available, and prices reflected that.

“But since the softening of the sector in the 2014/15 financial year, we’ve seen a lot of those houses come back on the market, the last time I looked there were more than 500 properties for sale in our postcode.

“I really wanted to look at initiatives on how we can get people who are currently renting in our community to purchase, in order to retain them in our region. But also, what could we look at doing to attract people to come to our region as well.”

Cr O’Neil said he had seen the success of a number of regional based first home-buying initiatives throughout the country that had encouraged people to move to smaller towns and integrate themselves in the community.

“I wanted to look at what we could do, what could we facilitate as a council, I’m not saying necessarily fund, but we might, to have a program in place where people can get a little bit of a leg up to get them in our community and purchase the houses currently for sale,” he said.

“If we get those people in our town, they invest in houses, in the community, they’ll have a family unit around them – it’s about getting them here.”

Supported by demographers like Bernard Salt, Cr O’Neil said the key for communities like the Maranoa to survive is to grow the population.

“If we can do that, our region becomes more sustainable,” he said.

“The more people here, the more resources in terms of annual contribution to rates we have to continue to invest in key assets – not just what people see above the ground like our halls and Bassett Park, but also the stuff underneath the ground – the sewerage and water networks.

“So if we continue to grow we’re more sustainable long term and that’s what his initiative’s main driver is.”

Council was unanimous in their support for Cr O’Neil’s proposal, which will now progress into forming a report for a future Council meeting.

“I’m really pleased that council was unanimous in their support for this, and that shows that we are all committed to growing our community and ensuring that we are sustainable long term,” Cr O’Neil said.

“But now I want all of their input into what it could look like, and I want to go outside council as well to get the breadth of knowledge and ideas from particularly people in the commerce and economic development sector, so that we can have an initiative that we might fund, or we might go and talk to industry or government about supporting us getting this off the ground.

“At the end of the day, it’s about growing our region, and this isn’t just about Roma, it’s the whole Maranoa”