Council: Put the brakes on FIFO

A HIGH-speed commuter train connecting resource and coastal communities would reduce the risk of fatigue-related road accidents, according to a proposal from the Isaac Regional Council.

The IRC is also seeking an immediate moratorium on the expansion of any further FIFO, BIBO or DIDO workforce solutions until proper assessment is undertaken on their long-term effects on resource regions.

In a submission to the ongoing federal House of Representatives inquiry into the use of fly in, fly out workforce practices in regional Australia, the Isaac council put forward an 11-point action plan it claimed would deliver "real change to the present unsustainable circumstances".

On top of the list was the need for a complete pause on all new developments utilising FIFO, or otherwise run the risk of "irreversible and intergenerational long-term consequences".

A passenger train would allow workers a low-risk travel option to and from work in the Bowen Basin on a daily basis.

The council said workers should have the chance to invite their families to stay in resource communities to experience their partner's primary place of residence.

"This would include a program including possible employment opportunities and typical community events and recreation that showcases the liveability and lifestyle of the area," the submission said.

"In recent years more and more decisions have been taken out of the community view and decided externally to the region. This is a recipe for a collapse of public confidence in the system and a disaster in long-term community investment and security."

The council called on the State and Federal government to focus legislation on post-mining economies in an effort to secure a long-term future for resource regions.

It claimed the State Government had failed Bowen Basin residents not working in the mining sector by decreasing strategic investment in regional services, infrastructure and housing when FIFO operations increased in the region.

"Lower paid residents can't afford to live in the communities (where) they work," the submission said.

"Mining companies should be required to assist in the development of affordable housing facilities to help alleviate high costs of living in resource communities."

The submission claimed decreasing affordability had led to a "new social poor" where those who would traditionally be described as middle income were now experiencing increased living costs and housing stress.

"This creates hardships for low income earners, with workers having to sleep in cars or tents. It also creates difficulties to attract and retain employees in essential services such as schools, hospitals and social services and people are being forced to relocate as low cost housing options are converted to house non-resident workforces through single-person quarters," the submission said.

"IRC believes if the State Government is serious about its Regionalisation Strategy; it should be directing investment into resource communities to house a greater proportion of residents who can then feed directly and indirectly into the resource sector workforce."

It said limited public transport meant non-resident workers were increasingly using the road to access their workplaces.

"The Department of Transport has indicated that there will be a two to three-fold increase in wide load traffic throughout the Bowen Basin in the near future," the submission said.

"It is time for an independent expert body to advise government and community on the sustainable land use issues surrounding the further development of the Northern Bowen Basin coal reserves in the Isaac Region."

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