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
- 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 regional jobs.1
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
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
South West Queensland and the Darling Downs produce around a third of Queensland’s agricultural output and is a major region for cotton, chickpeas and beef production. 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.
South West Queensland is a major producer and exporter of premium grains and pulses including hard wheats, sorghum, barley, sunflowers, maize, chickpeas, mungbeans and soybeans.
South West Queensland produces 85% of Queensland’s cotton and several cotton gins operate in the region.2 In addition, the region produces a wide range of vegetable crops such as lettuce, melons and onions, with fruit and nut produce including avocados, nectarines, grape vines, olives, blueberries and peaches.
International education and training
In 2019, there were over 2,000 international student enrolments in Toowoomba.3
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.
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.
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.
1Queensland Government Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation, 2019, ‘Strengthening Darling Downs South West’, https://www.statedevelopment.qld.gov.au/regions/queensland/darling-downs-south-west.html, accessed July 2020.
2Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, 2019, ‘Cotton’, https://www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/crops/cotton, accessed July 2020.
3Deloitte Access Economics, 2020, ‘International education and training snapshot, Toowoomba 2019’, report commissioned by Study Queensland.