$6.8m loss hits agricultural colleges

THE future of agricultural colleges in Queensland looks dim as the body responsible for overseeing the schools heads towards a $6.8 million loss.

Australia's four agricultural colleges - at Dalby, Emerald, Longreach and Mareeba - merged in 2005 to form the Australian Agriculture College Corporation.

A review of the corporation by accountancy firm Ernst and Young, released on Wednesday, found the struggling organisation hadn't operated at a profit since it was set up and was spiralling towards a $6.8 million loss this financial year.

The campuses at Emerald and Longreach were identified as two of the biggest failures.

The review found both Central Queensland campuses did not comply with workplace health and safety standards and that the AACC was at high risk of non-compliance with other environmental laws.

Ernst and Young claimed the AACC's option of keeping the Emerald campus open and closing the Longreach site had not been fully thought through and suggested on a commercial basis the entire business close or undergo a costly restructure.

The firm forecast the AACC would run out of money by the end of this financial year.

Queensland Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister John McVeigh pointed the finger at the former Labor government and said he would meet with stakeholders to discuss all options for the embattled colleges.

"Agricultural training must continue throughout Queensland in a cost-effective and realistic manner to deliver what industry needs," he said. "In the current climate where every dollar has to be wisely spent, there's a need for a full review of where we need to go to match the needs of the next generation of skilled agricultural workers."

While Mr McVeigh tossed up the colleges' future, Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mulherin said the government was flagging its closure.

"I never thought I would see the day when the National Party would be closing our state agricultural colleges," Mr Mulherin said.

"People in the bush must be outraged."

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