Outback population hits 50,000-year low
THE dwindling population in Queensland's Outback has prompted calls for more people to move out west.
The Valuing a Living Outback report, released today, highlights the increasing threat of a declining population in the bush and a lack of people to manage threats such as uncontrolled fires, feral animals and weeds.
The report classed the Outback as a vast area of 1.1 million square kilometres, covering the four major regions of Cape York, Gulf Country, the Simpson Desert and Channel Country.
There are understood to be about 88,000 current residents in Outback Queensland - the lowest number of locals, both indigenous and non-indigenous, in 50,000 years.
The critical need for residents has prompted The Pew Charitable Trusts Queensland manager Fiona Maxwell to call for more support for landholders, national parks and local programs.
"Those people are suffering from a lack of support, meaning the beautiful landscapes they maintain - those same landscapes we're seeing tourists increasingly flock to - are under threat," she said.
"To keep the Outback healthy and to maintain its nature, its wildlife, its people and its economies, we need to support those who live there, looking after and managing its lands."
Outback Queensland's population declined by 1.1 per cent between 2012 and 2017, with only six out of 27 local government areas recording an increase.
Authorities warn the loss of local residents will affect tourism and domestic visitation growth, which has seen a three-year growth-rate of 9.1 per cent to June 2017 - higher than the state's average.
Outback Queensland Tourism Association general manager Peter Homan said building infrastructure such as universities, hospitals and bigger airports would help attract more people to live in the bush.
"I think all of the towns are looking (for people to move there)," he said.
"I think it's a real concern for them to see the dwindling population.
"It's all about the liveability issues. The cost of getting back to the city, or getting to hospitals if you need treatment.
"We're quite a long way away from hospitals and major universities and a long way from international airports if you need to travel."
Cloncurry resident Chelsea Scoble said attracting more people to live out west was a great idea.
"A lot of people choose to move out here because of the lifestyle, but end up moving back to the coast to be with their family," she said.
"There is so much family support out here, and everyone looks after each other.
"I think it's definitely a good idea to bring more people out here."
Tourist season out back
DROUGHT-ravaged western Queensland is set for much-needed economic relief, with the State Government launching an Outback tourism campaign to encourage travellers to go bush during the school holidays.
Cut-price holiday packages from as little as $615 for three nights are being offered in the campaign, being rolled out by Tourism and Events Queensland in partnership with the Outback Queensland Tourism Association, QantasLink and Sunlover Holidays.
The campaign will entice holidaymakers to visit attractions, such as the Waltzing Matilda Centre, Qantas Founders Museum, Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and the Charleville Cosmos Centre Planetarium.
Outback Queensland Tourism Association general manager Peter Homan said the timing could not be better.
"We've had more new tourism attractions open in the last six months than many other parts of the state," he said.
"If you've seen the Outback once, get ready for a whole new experience."
Tourism Minister Kate Jones said the state's Outback tourism rose by 11 per cent in the past three years, with 875,000 visitors spending $617 million in the region in the 12 months to March.