South West Queensland is diverse in landscape and opportunity. The region covers nearly 400,000km2, stretching from the Great Dividing Range to the South Australian border.

There are 3 distinct subregions:

  • Darling Downs
  • Maranoa
  • South West.

Commonly known as the Garden City with its renowned Carnival of Flowers, Toowoomba is the region’s major service centre, particularly for the Surat Basin and local food and agriculture industries. It has strong capabilities in education, professional services, food processing and manufacturing. This modern city also has a focus on innovation and has signed up for a global smart cities network.

Economy and infrastructure

South West Queensland and the Darling Downs produces around a third of Queensland’s agricultural output and is a major area for cotton and beef. Agriculture, forestry and fishing, construction, health care and social assistance, retail and education and training all represent a significant portion of jobs in the South West and the Darling Downs.

The region is supported by a reliable road, rail and air network including the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport – the first private airport of its type in Australia – and the adjoining business park now under development. Darling Downs is also set to benefit from new infrastructure including the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing and Inland Rail.

By continuing to build on its economic strengths and supporting the growth of new sectors, the Darling Downs region stands to benefit from increased foreign investment and sustained growth in a diverse range of regional exports.

Industry growth areas

Construction

The construction industry in the Toowoomba region generated $1.86 billion in 2016/17, with 4,161 businesses employing 12,967 people.

Construction businesses and services industries service the mining, residential and property development markets within Australia and overseas.

Food and agribusiness

Regarded as one the top 10 most fertile farming areas in the world, Darling Downs has a proud agricultural heritage, producing over a quarter of Queensland’s agricultural, forestry and fishing output.

The region supports a diverse range of agricultural products and processing capabilities, made possible by a favourable climate, good soil and ready access to water.

South West Queensland contains approximately 22% of Queensland’s cattle and produces a similar proportion of the state’s total value of beef. Cattle breeds include high-value Wagyu, Angus and mixed Bos Taurus as well as Bos Indicus feeder cattle. Australia’s largest cattle selling centre is based at Roma, and the second biggest at Dalby. Numerous properties produce organic beef, catering for growing domestic and international demand.

Toowoomba and the surrounding regions are host to Australia’s largest concentration of feedlots supplying product to a cluster of local meat processors, all of whom are accredited for export:

  • NH Food Australia – Oakey
  • Stanbroke – Grantham
  • John Dee – Warwick
  • JBS – Aubigny
  • Western Meats – Charleville.

The region’s additional strengths include the production of high quality lamb, kangaroo and goat meat. Investment in cluster fencing, combined with strong pricing, is seeing a resurgence in wool production through the region.

South West Queensland is a premium grain and pulse production area producing premium hard wheats, sorghum, barley, sunflowers, maize, chickpeas, mungbeans and soybeans. Producing approximately 75% of the Queensland crop, wheat is the highest contributor to the region’s grain economy.

While a proportion of this product is used in domestic milling, growers and traders are targeting the premium flour and noodle markets of the UAE and Asia. Dryland and irrigated summer sorghum is also a major crop and export demand is increasing.

Approximately a third of Australia’s total chickpea production is grown in Queensland and over half of this crop is produced in the southern corner. As with most pulse and bean crops, 80%–90% of a chickpea harvested is destined for export markets, predominantly Asia.

South West Queensland produces 85% of Queensland’s cotton, with a combined value of cotton and cotton seed of approximately $740 million. Several cotton gins operate in the region.

South West Queensland produced $435 million worth of horticultural produce in 2016/17. Prominent vegetable crops include lettuce, melons and onions, with fruit and nut produce including avocados, nectarines, grape vines, olives, blueberries and peaches. Amenity and horticultural nurseries and turf farms are additional industries.

Toowoomba has developed a food-processing and machinery and equipment manufacturing sector based on its major agricultural activities. The diverse range of food processing includes flour millers, dairy manufacturers, bakery and small goods manufacturers, horticultural and meat processors, which all add value to the region’s diverse range of primary sector industries.

International education and training

Education and training contributes $1.33 million to the regional economy and employs 121,876 people.

Recognised as one of the leading regional education hubs, South West Queensland is attracting a growing number of international students, primarily from India, China and Kuwait.

The cluster of boarding and day schools is attracting international student and teacher exchange programs. TAFE Queensland South West is recognised for its international distance education capability, with a range of vocational courses catering to the demands of industry within the region and overseas.

Tertiary education is also well catered for. Toowoomba is home to the University of Southern Queensland, regarded as the leading university in Queensland for employability. Other university campuses include Griffith University’s Clinical Training Centre, and UQ’s Rural Medical Clinical School. The nearby University of Queensland Gatton campus is one of the world’s top 50 universities for its extensive graduate and post-graduate agricultural courses and facilities such as the Queensland Animal Science Precinct and Gatton Farms.

International education and training interests in the region are serviced by the Study Toowoomba regional study cluster supported by TIQ.

Mining and resources

The mining and resources sector is an important contributor to the South West Queensland region, which is fast becoming an energy hub for Australia. The mining sector produced $3,919 million of output in 2016/17 and employed 7,303 people.

Oil and conventional gas are produced from the Cooper and Eromanga Basins, with multi-billion-dollar coal seam gas (CSG) projects dotted throughout the Surat Basin with the prospect of delivering CSG to residential centres and export destinations. Exploration has indicated the potential for future growth in oil and gas production. Opals are also mined across the region.

Tourism

Given the strength of the agricultural sector, there is growing interest in paddock-to-plate gourmet food and wine tourism. Popular outdoor recreation experiences include hiking, and mountain biking. The beautiful wide-open spaces of the South West also provide world-class star gazing.

There are opportunities to grow the tourism sector by capitalising on the natural beauty of the region which includes the Lockyer Valley, Maranoa and Granite Belt areas.

Transport and logistics

The Darling Downs and South West region is connected to major transport corridors and provides access to national and international networks. It has well developed road, rail and air, networks supported by business and industrial facilities and available labour. Sea port access is available through Brisbane, 2 hours east of Toowoomba, with the Toowoomba second range crossing to provide more efficient connections to the west) as is air and rail freight at the Brisbane Multimodal Terminal.

Trade and investment services

Darling Downs and South West Queensland is serviced by TIQ’s Toowoomba Office. To find out about more Queensland’s opportunities and competitive advantages, see the Queensland: Endless Opportunities investment prospectus.