If you think that the countryside on either side of the highway as you drive north from Bowen presents a boring aspect, take a moment to think what things could have been like if the early settlers of Bowen hadn’t rejected Robert Towns’ proposal to build a boiling down works on Poole Island.
More than likely, once you’d passed through the relatively green belt on either side of the Burdekin you’d probably be faced with the prospect of another two-and-a-bit hours of nothing much until you came into the rain-forests south of Ingham. All that stretch of highway, lying in what we’ve come to know as the Dry Tropics, is going to present a pretty dreary prospect for most of the year unless some form of development has delivered water from somewhere else.
The cane fields in the Burdekin give you some idea of what the countryside is capable of producing, given a reliable water supply. The problem is, however, that apart from a few spots like Gumlu and Guthalungra there aren’t too many places where farmers can access enough water to produce substantial greenery.
The Water For Bowen Project is supposedly going to go part of the way towards remedying that. Assuming that it delivers, there’s the prospect of substantial increases in farming activity north of Bowen and you would also expect that there would also be a substantial growth in the aqua-culture projects in the area.
Those prospects have been fairly actively canvassed over the past few years and there’s no reason to assume they won’t happen. Whether they’re affected by any industrial development at Abbot Point is going to depend on the form that the development takes.
Expanding farming and aqua-culture operations will also, of course, have their own implications for the future of the Great Barrier Reef so the extent to which they’re able to expand could fall far short of the scenario that would see motorists travelling through abundant greenery all the way from Inkerman to Salisbury Plains.
Based on reports of a substantial mineral deposit eighty kilometres from Bowen, it’s possible that increased activity along the highway could be more than matched by developments further inland. Whether those developments will actually benefit businesses in Bowen is, of course, difficult to say. The mineral deposit, details of which are few and far between, may not even be located within the boundaries of the old Bowen Shire, and, if that’s the case you’d expect the benefits to flow towards the Burdekin rather than Bowen.
Given the likelihood that agriculture and aqua-culture projects south of Guthalungra will be more or less on the doorstep of the industrial precinct you’d assume that the increased activity along the highway will more than likely peter out once you cross the Elliott River. Nevertheless there will, more than likely, be substantial development around Guthalungra as businesses in Bowen relocate or establish branches in the area to counter a drift of business to Ayr and Home Hill.
Growth in the farming sector may also have implications for Bowen’s backpacker hostels as their customers choose to base themselves in Guthalungra, Gumlu or Home Hill. That will, in turn have a flow-on effect in Bowen’s central business area.