Professor John Rolfe.
Professor John Rolfe.

Mine workers choose 'local'

CENTRAL Highlands communities would be better off if mine workers had more choice in where they live and work, said regional economic development expert, Professor John Rolfe.

In a submission to a House of Representatives inquiry on fly in, fly out workforces, Prof Rolfe said mandated FIFO and DIDO (drive in, drive out) should not occur. A substantial proportion of the workforce is often prepared to live locally, and by implementing a standard approach, regional development would be crippled and local workforce participation would be removed.

He warned of mining communities missing out on the benefits of the boom.

"While many communities may just want FIFO to go away, it is important to realise it is here to stay, and its best to think how to get the best possible outcome from it," Prof Rolfe said.

"It is a big issue because we are not just dealing with current pressures but pressures to come too.

"Where housing is available and workers can live close to employment, there's greater likelihood more employees will live locally."

Prof Rolfe's submission said regulation and planning issues favour resource companies into choosing FIFO and DIDO arrangements over a locally-based workforce.

He said appropriate housing stocks need to be developed in local communities to match the influx of new employees, with an emphasis on variety.

"A lot of the issues are on the supply side of things. In a community like Emerald, it may be a case of fast-tracking residential developments," Prof Rolfe said.

"There needs to be a mix in accommodation available that gives people more choice."

He said systems that better integrate FIFO workers into communities tend to work better.

"This is probably one of the more contentious issues, but certainly smaller work camps spread throughout a town seem to be better than large self sufficient camps out of town," he said.

"FIFO services and facilities should be integrated into local communities to maximise economic development."

Queensland's richest man, Clive Palmer, who controls Waratah Coal, recently pledged 2000 jobs from the emerging China First Coal Project near Alpha to Sunshine Coast residents.

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