THE Longreach Pastoral College’s career as an agricultural educational and training institution might not be over.
At the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Association Conference in Wagga Wagga yesterday, AAM Investment Group managing director Garry Edwards said the college’s new owners have approached him to discuss AAM’s ideas for its future use.
AAM tendered for the college assets with the backing of 10 pastoral companies earlier this year, intending to develop them for education and training, but the Queensland Government sold the college’s 17, 511ha and buildings to three separate tenderers.
Peter and Caroline Britton of Brighton Downs Station, near Winton, purchased the land south of Landsborough Highway, including the campus for $7.6m. Local tourism operator Richard Kinnon, from Outback Pioneers, purchased the land adjacent to the Thompson River for $1.2m. Longreach producers James and Susie Milson purchased the land north of the Landsborough Highway for $3.6m.
Mr Edwards told the ICMJ conference that AAM believe there needs to be more alignment and investment in agricultural education and training “by the companies themselves, not just reliant on the government.”
“Ultimately there is a little lesson though in politics here, because even though you might have the highest bid – our bid was $1.82 million above the ones that got awarded.
“And even though we had 3347 letters of support, the politics was it was going to make the government look bad,” he said.
“So what’s happened is that obviously the ag college has been sold and the people that have bought the ag college have called us up and said ‘hey, what would you like to do with it?’
“So maybe just watch this space in regards to what actually happens around Longreach or any other college, because the initiative that we put together there are now 17 companies that have joined,” Mr Edwards said.
“We’re inviting any other companies that want to be involved because this about pastoralists providing pathways to questions around training and investment, and not just relying on a government program to do it.
“I was contacted by 10 separate educational facilities that wanted to go and run courses in customised ways …..
“This is something that we’re as a business are passionate about progressing, so I hope that somewhere in the next couple of years you’ll see something happening at Longreach and I suspect we may or may not be attached to it,” he said.
Mr Edwards said there are also other educational facilities around the country that have historically closed that AAM is also looking at in terms of what benefits there might be in re-establishment with private backing.
“So just to be clear, this was not an investment for commercial gain, there was no financial return on this business case, apart from having a pathway that collectively the companies involved in it of which AAM led that situation, created the opportunity for tertiary or other educational courses – short courses, long courses – to be located around the country whereby we align as a group to other educational facilities.”
Mr Edwards said AAM is talking to the three successful college purchasers, but it might be up to 12 months to two years before discussions and plans are finalised.
“We are very focused on what we can do with the campus itself and some of the immediate surrounding areas and if we don’t end up doing it at Longreach I guess we will look at other locations.
“The dream of having companies collaborate for education is not dead, but as it relates to Longreach will ultimately be determined by the people who are now the owners.”