Meeting validates the FIFO concern

MINING communities might be confident their opinions matter to the State Government but Blackwater and Moranbah advocacy groups, together with former MP Jim Pearce, have fought long and hard to get their concerns registered on the Urban Land Development Authority’s radar.

And yesterday, they reckoned they achieved just that.

“We were fortunate enough to have the time to discuss the issues with the deputy premier,” Blackwater Community Progress Group’s chair Kev Cracknell said of the two-hour meeting with Mr Lucas, ULDA chief executive Paul Eagles and mining and community representatives.

“We really want some action and we’re hopeful it will happen,” he said.

Mr Pearce echoed Mr Cracknell’s perception of the meeting, and said it was understood “our concerns were valid and rational”.

“We didn’t narrow our concerns down to specifics… we reassured (Mr Lucas) the communities were committed to growing with the mining industry as it develops further. But we told him we want to see some balance in those towns in resident and non-resident workers.”

The meeting puts pressure on the government to demonstrate it had registered the concerns of Bowen Basin communities calling for a limit on fly in, fly out workers allowed in the towns.

Moranbah Action Group’s Kelly Vae Vae said that pressure was on the State Government now.

“The town planning has no limits on the amount of transient accommodation,” she said.

“They have no socio-economic impact (study).”

She said the government should stand up against mining companies intent on expanding their operations in the region at the cost of communities such as Moranbah, which faces the prospect of accommodating a 100% FIFO workforce.

But Mr Lucas reminded those who travelled to Brisbane for the meeting the ULDA was not responsible for mining approvals.

“They made it clear that they are not opposed to the ULDA,” Mr Lucas said.

“The ULDA is not in the business of approving or not approving mines in Queensland any more than it is responsible for approving new industries.

“The ULDA’s job is to work with what is approved to get more positive outcomes for the community.”

Those positive outcomes, Mr Pearce said, would be achieved when the State Government got involved in the planning process for mining towns.

“The government is under a bit of pressure to acknowledge we do have issues and demonstrate they’ve been listening,” he said.

“They have to demonstrate they’re prepared to make the tough decisions, and that it is not being told by the mining companies what to do.

“It’s a common perception around the Bowen Basin that mining companies have a lot of say with how things are run.”

Careful consideration has to be given to the impacts further developments will have on small towns like Moranbah and Blackwater, Mr Pearce said, and to date, the ULDA has not demonstrated they have done that.

No socio-economic impact study was completed when plans were submitted to the government, but will now top the list the representatives left with Mr Lucas and Mr Eagles after the meeting.

“We left a lot of questions there for them to answer, and they know we’ll come back for them,” Mr Pearce said.

“Our expectations for the future are that the ULDA will understand where the community groups are coming from and make decisions about building approvals, taking into consideration the fact that if they don’t focus on the issues and try to improve or change their thinking on some issues, they are going to have a strong reaction from the community.”

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