John Santalucia.
John Santalucia. contributed SANTA03

Santalucia's land offer remains open to end of year

MORE than 50 years of hard work has gone in to one of Bundaberg developer John Santalucia's properties making it a difficult decision to give it away.

Mr Santalucia has offered to donate almost 390ha of land with hopes it can be used as an agricultural training hub.

An advocate for youth employment in agriculture, Mr Santalucia donated more than 30 hectares of land to the Queensland Government in 1989 to establish a farming training college that operated for eight years.

In the lead up to the federal election the developer called for Hinkler candidates to have their say on how the land could be used to boost youth unemployment. The comments of each candidate was published in last Saturday's NewsMail.

Mr Santalucia said the planned closure of the Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges and Training Hubs at the end of this year would leave a significant void in agricultural education in our state.

He believes there has been considerable debate on whether this action was necessary.

"Many of the people who currently work in and manage the industry, have been trained at one these colleges and thankfully are providing the skills that are needed today,” he said. "However, with Australian farmers aging, the closure of these educational facilities is creating a barrier to young people choosing to enter the industry.

"The question is how will our farmers of tomorrow be trained?”

He said the agricultural industry in Bundaberg was already in need of people with practical knowledge, yet there was 25% of the region's youth looking for work.

"It is for this reason that education of our youth in agriculture is absolutely vital, not only for Bundaberg but for all of Australia,” Mr Santalucia said.

"It should be acted on with urgency. Nothing can be more important than the production and security of our food.”

Mr Santalucia (pictured) said a suggestion was made to work on a business case to expand the Burnett Youth Learning Centre.

Due to the size of the new property a training college would require the construction of workshop facilities and equipment needed to operate the farm.

Mr Santalucia's decision to donate the property was made after a great deal of consideration and it wasn't easy.

"Ask any farmer, they know what it takes to make such a decision,” he said.

The property has reasonable water security through a combination of dams and bore water licenses (including four pumps) - a total of 415 mega litres. Mr Santalucia said the offer would remain open until the end of the year, which should be sufficient time for a group to put forward a detailed proposal for consideration.

A Bundaberg agricultural training college of the nature being proposed, will not only help to address youth unemployment, there will also be an economic benefit for the Bundaberg region.

Mr Santalucia is surprised and deeply concerned by the lack of public debate on this issue because it has far-reaching implications for our entire community.

"I encourage all members of the community to put forward suggestions and provide constructive feedback to stimulate much needed debate on this issue,” he said.