Well-Being Australia chairman, Mark Tronson, is developing a respite centre as part of his Mission at one of these communities – Laguna Quays – which is a partly developed resort based around a golf course. A nearby town, Midge Point, has the heritage of a long-term fishing village and associated community.
Ten years ago, predictions were of a tourist boom and developers attained local government agreements to open housing blocks of all sizes, shops, and everything else tourists or people moving from the 'cold south' (New South Wales and Victoria) would require.
The plans that went awry
This grand plan of a large boost to the local economy, bringing in permanent residents as well as tourists, depended in turn on the success of a larger development; and in this case, the vast expansion of the Laguna Quays Golfing Resort.
However, for one reason and another this didn't go ahead as hoped. By 2002 a Tavern was established as a local meeting place with a restaurant, and in 2004 a row of seven shops had been built.
A take-away shop (fast-food outlet) opened and within a short period of time closed. The only shop of the seven that remained open by the time Mark Tronson opened his respite centre in 2010 was the laundromat. The local chain supermarket (IGA) had opened, then closed, opened again and finally closed again in mid 2011.
This area of north Queensland is in the tropics, where summer cyclones (called hurricanes in the northern hemisphere and typhoons in parts of Asia) are a common occurrence. A major cyclone hit the area in 2010 and left considerable damage. Several families left the general area, which means that some of the schools may have to open with fewer teachers next academic year, and the local government (Mackay Council) stopped giving approvals for further development plans in Midge Point.
Progress being made with local support
The second half 2011 saw some progress in a range of areas. Mackay Council has now given approval to several developments, and some of them have started up already, and there is a rural trade-show ('field day') called Farm Fest.
But the major innovation, surprising though it may seem, is that the take-away food shop – which is also a convenience store - has reopened and it has become the symbol of the area's rejuvenation. Amazingly, it is offering new life-blood to this community.
Locals have also determined to support the take-away by spending a little extra and enjoying such items call in to buy an ice cream. The new proprietors are helping the locals with their convenient opening hours of 9.00am to 9.00pm.
Mark Tronson and his wife Delma have been pleased to support this facility as they have been spending a few weeks at a time there, developing their respite property to meet the Council regulations, supervising the renovations and landscaping improvements, and having some respite themselves.
Since its opening in June seven missionary couples or families have now visited the facility, and have been pleased not to drive 30 minutes or more to larger towns to buy the staples such as bread and milk, not to mention the occasional take-away meal to save them from cooking when they are supposed to be on respite!
35th wedding anniversary
When they return in Feburary to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary, the Tronson's will be very pleased to see that the take-away shop that rescued a community is celebrating its third month of survival and is looking forward to many more months of success and community good will.
The story is not unlike many small semi-rural communities where a small business starts up to provide essentials such as bread and milk and a few groceries, along with the convenience of cheap home-made 'fast-food' meals as a treat for the local families and tourists who pass through.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html