EMERALD is becoming the town of choice for resource industry employees according to a new report into the number of permanent and transient workers in the Bowen Basin.
Total population figures for the region reached 98,450 by June last year, according to the 2010 Bowen Basin Population Report released this week.
As the urban centre of the Central Highlands, Emerald’s permanent population swelled to 18,740 last year, with just 905 people, or 5%, reported as non-resident workers in the report commissioned by the Queensland Treasury’s Office of Economic and Statistical Research.
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche welcomed the report’s findings, and said it disproved exaggerated transient worker figures argued by concerned community groups.
“I think the good news out of this data is that the residential population across the Bowen Basin is growing, and the size of the non-residential workforce is perhaps not as large as people have been led to believe,” he said.
“Independent analysis by the Queensland Treasury tells us that the overwhelming portion of the Bowen Basin workforce actually lives in communities like Emerald, Dysart and Moranbah so the latest figures from… the census shows that 85% of the workforce actually lives in the local communities on a permanent basis.
“I think that’s very encouraging for those who have an understandable concern about these communities being abandoned by mining companies in favour of the FIFO model.”
The Isaac Regional Council area tipped the scales as accommodating the largest number of non-resident workers in the report with more than two-thirds, or 9903 of the 14,613 transient workers, counted.
Nebo housed 55% of the entire Isaac region’s FIFO or DIDO workers, compared to Blackwater’s 91% of the former Duaringa Shire’s non-resident population.
“Growth in both the resident and non-resident worker populations of the Bowen Basin saw the (full-time equivalent) population climb to a record 98,500 in June, 2010, a rise of over 3600 or 4% since mid-2009,” the report stated.
However, the distribution and nature of growth varied between the local government areas.
Some areas experienced proportionally more growth in either the resident or non-resident worker populations, particularly in relation to the Isaac and Central Highlands LGAs.
“The essential difference between the two areas is that 65% of population in Isaac has been in terms of non-resident workers, whereas 76% of growth in Central Highlands was in the resident population,” the report stated.
But despite the report’s positive findings for the Central Highlands, Member for Gregory Vaughan Johnson slammed the State Government for not showing leadership with regards to the region’s development.
“It appears the government is hell-bent on hiding behind a recommendation made by the Urban Land Development Authority,” he said.
“The ULDA is making all the running in relation to all the planning in all these places, including Moranbah.
“The government is not showing leadership in the planning and development of future infrastructure to complement growth, not only from the mining industry, but also the very successful agricultural industry we have on our doorstep.”
Mr Johnson said the only way for populations in towns such as Bluff and Duaringa to become viable and sustainable was by their residents becoming directly involved in mining and agriculture developments.
“And you can bet it won’t be long-term because they don’t have the social infrastructure like high schools and hospitals that cater for exploding and growing populations,” he said.
“It is a very big impost on Local Government because they’ve got to provide the water and sewerage and electricity that qualifies the need for accommodating that growth in any community.
“Big-city government, whether it’s State or Federal, has got to play a significant role in supporting the Local Government with the necessary funds to address this serious anomaly.”
The geographical area covered by the report included all nine statistical local areas within the four Local Government administrative areas of the Bowen Basin – Banana Shire, Central Highlands Regional Council, Isaac Regional Council and Whitsunday Regional Council.
The report is available online at www.oesr.qld.gov.au.
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