The Mill at Moreton Bay: the new SCU campus

Like many others, I have a personal connection to the Australian Paper Mill at Petrie, 25km north of Brisbane. As new migrants, it was our primary source of employment; my husband was contracted there in the mid-eighties as a specialist engineer responsible for calibrating the mill’s computers. So it was with a sense of nostalgia I learned in 2013 of the mill’s closure; apparently its lack of viability was due to energy/cost pressures and the high value of the Australian dollar. I was not alone in my disappointment; at the time the mill’s closure and the associated loss of 220 jobs was seen as a real blow for the region. However, the story does have a happy ending; the Moreton Shire Council has teamed up with the University of the Sunshine Coast to establish a brand new campus which is expected to create 6000 jobs, 10,000 student placements, and add $950 million a year to the Queensland economy.

The mill was part of the Petrie community on the north-side of Brisbane for more than 60 years; construction began on the dairy farm site in 1951 and was officially opened by Australian Prime Minister Rt. Hon. R.G. Menzies (later Sir) in December 1957, who labelled the project ‘the largest industrial undertaking in southern Queensland’.  Following its closure, the Moreton Shire Council negotiated the purchase of a 200 hectare parcel of the site for $50.5 million in July 2015 as a platform for its university campus. Upon endorsement by Moreton Bay Regional Council, The Mill at Moreton Bay PDA Development Scheme was declared a priority development area (PDA) on 2 September 2016. It received final approval by the Queensland Government on 17 August 2017, and the news was official; the redevelopment of the old Petrie paper mill into a university precinct was to be fast-tracked, and due to be up and running by 2020.

Seen as an investment in the future prosperity of the region, the development is expected to maximise work and study opportunities for local residents – reducing travel to, and congestion in – the Brisbane CBD, whilst also providing opportunities to retain environment corridors. Council Mayor Allan Sutherland said the PDA announcement would have far-reaching impacts on the region; ‘PDA status will unlock the full potential of the university’s surrounding land to create a vibrant community hub where people can live, work, and play around education. The Mill is a bold new vision for our region and will help us to diversify and future-proof our economy’. Sunshine Coast University vice-chancellor Greg Hill also promoted the economic benefit of the university, which he said had added $7 billion to the Sunshine Coast community since it opened in 1994.

Moreton Bay is one of the fastest growing urban areas in the country, and is predicted to grow by more than 40 per cent over the next 20 years, which would take its population to more than 500,000 people, or ‘roughly the population size of Tasmania’. This is great news for property owners, and as an investor in the region I for one will be monitoring the area very closely. Together with the recently completed rail link, the new university – at the junction of two urban rail lines – couldn’t be better placed. And from a personal point of view, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate or beneficial way to utilise the old paper mill than the future investment in our young people and environment. Progress indeed.

Warmest regards,

Pam @ Partnership Property

Historical images courtesy of John Young:

Prime Minister Menzies on an inspection of the Petrie paper mill;

Paper truck at Petrie Mill;

Motor-scooter tricycles in Brisbane used to collect waste paper for the Petrie Paper Mill

Posted 18 October 2017

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