By Charlie McKillop – Wednesday, 16/01/2013

A commercial banana farm in the remote Aboriginal town of Hope Vale is finally a reality, a decade after the idea first emerged.

Its first crop is expected to be harvested in June.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman yesterday checked in on the farm, 370 kilometres north of Cairns, and announced $370,000 to help equip a new packing shed which is being built with a $1.8 million grant from the Federal Government.

Mayor Greg McLean says it’s been a difficult road, but unlike other failed indigenous employment projects, the Hope Vale joint venture is about to bear fruit for his community.

“We’ve got in the ground almost 50,000 plants now,” he says.

“We’ve joined up with Dole Australia in getting this program to where it is now.

“I think the state and commonwealth have now seen how a community like Hope Vale has done things for itself without any assistance in the past.

“Now I think they’ve got to the point where it’s too good to be true and they’re starting to come forward [with funding].

“When we started this there was nobody around to help us financially.

“I’ve seen money wasted in the past, put into Aboriginal organisations and it was never a success.

“Well I got to say this for us, we are going to make this successful. The only thing that’s going to stop us now is a natural disaster.”

Premier confirms electricity sell-off

Two days before the Premier arrived at Hopevale, residents had been without power for nearly 48 hours.

When the matter was brought to the attention of Mr Newman he said the outage supported a case for not de-regulating the entire industry.

He said people in remote places would not benefit from complete deregulation of the electricity industry, and they wanted their power on just like other places in the state.

Editor: Every other consumer in the state would like their power to remain on as well Mr Newman so it would be of benefit to the entire state to abandon any proposed sale of the publicly owned electricity generation network.