After the deluge, Queensland seeks HK investors for rebuilding boom

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 April, 2011, 12:00am
 

The floods in Queensland may seem like an afterthought now after last month's earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but the Australian state still faces a massive reconstruction task.

And, while the task is enormous, the state is back in business and presents opportunities for investors from Hong Kong and the mainland, according to an official marketing body from the Queensland capital.

Queensland needs to rebuild enough road to circle the globe twice, thousands of kilometres of rail line, almost 100 schools, an unknown number of bridges, several regional airports, power lines, drains and water treatment plants - the list goes on.

Despite the flood damage to the economy, some analysts predict the rebuilding effort will give a boost to the economy, as householders spend big to replace their destroyed property.

That's the mantra that Daniel Havas, Brisbane Marketing's director of investment attraction, was underscoring in Hong Kong last week when he came to brief investors on the opportunities in the state's infrastructure sector as part of the reconstruction programme.

'What happened in Japan is on a completely different scale to what happened in Queensland - we recognise that. Essentially though, Brisbane and Queensland were in the global media in the months of January and February like we never been before,' Havas said.

'There's now a curiosity for those who aren't already in the market here to get involved. It's terrible what happened but it also means opportunities are coming through. Basically, we're open for business.'

The extra construction work and spending to replace lost consumer goods may add as much as one percentage point to the nation's economic growth rate, and the Reserve Bank of Australia forecast that the economy would grow 3.75 per cent this year.

The floods are the most expensive natural disaster in the nation's history and claimed at least 20 lives.

'The reconstruction needed is nothing like on the same scale as what will happen in Japan over the next couple of years. But our reconstruction efforts will be focused over the next two years and then they'll be complete,' Havas said. 'It's about looking at the longer-term infrastructure investments. It hasn't been more difficult to generating support, because of what has happened in Japan.

'What happened in Brisbane and Queensland has actually highlighted the long-term opportunities in our economy that companies are now looking at. Suddenly we're on the map and companies are realising there's opportunities for people to invest in the region.'

Preliminary estimates suggest that the government will need to spend A$5.6 billion (HK$45.7 billion) rebuilding flood-affected regions in Queensland, and A$800 million to repair the effects of Cyclone Yasi in Far North Queensland. This investment is expected to boost economic growth in the region by A$10 billion.

Havas also believed that Hong Kong was the perfect springboard to generate further interest and backing from the mainland.

'There's a very strong level of interest from Hong Kong and Chinese companies in Brisbane. The Australian market is a natural progression for them. For us, Hong Kong is the hub where we can stretch into China,' he said.

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