The Balonne Shire Council has secured $5 million in Building Better Regions Fund funding for its ambitious plan to transform the St George town centre into a state-of-the-art learning complex incorporating a regional university hub.
The federal funding will support two projects to be rolled out simultaneously to bridge the education divide. The new St George Library-Hub Building in Victoria Street, with revitalised greenspace, and refurbished cultural centre façade and annexe will include:
- Increased library collection from 7 914 items to 13 500 items
- CUC Balonne tertiary education mini-hub
- Maker’s space for innovation, creativity, and robotics
- 3D print hub for prototypes and new product development
- Contemporary conference and workshop spaces with high-speed internet
- Dedicated business space, hot desks and office hire including virtual services
- Teen and Junior feature area
- Dedicated area for the celebration of local history and culture, and a new art gallery.
SGS supported the project by preparing a cost benefit analysis that contrasted the project’s costs with its anticipated benefits, along with an assessment of how the project will generate economic value added and employment in the local region. The economic analysis shows the project offers significant collective benefits to the broader community said SGS Project Director Andrew McDougall.
SGS provided its services to Balonne Shire on a heavily discounted basis, recognising the economic distress being faced in and around St George, and leveraging our previous work across Australia measuring the socioeconomic dividends generated by public libraries and vibrant town centres. The results show that the collective benefits generated for library users and the broader community are approximately 1.6 times overall project delivery costs.
This project builds for the future by facilitating career and business development and providing a rich community learning space. It will re-energise our region. On conservative figures, $6.3 million will be spent in the local area during the construction phase, generating a further $2.3 million for our economy.
The Balonne Shire has been through extended years of drought, and this investment in building capacity through further education is an important turning point in the fortunes of the region.