Mining towns unite

At the mining community rep meeting in Mackay is, front left to right, Donna Bulloch (Collinsville), Kelly Vea Vea (Moranbah), Kev Cracknell (Blackwater), and back left to right, Karen Low (Moranbah) and Blaine Allen (Moura).
At the mining community rep meeting in Mackay is, front left to right, Donna Bulloch (Collinsville), Kelly Vea Vea (Moranbah), Kev Cracknell (Blackwater), and back left to right, Karen Low (Moranbah) and Blaine Allen (Moura).

THE newly formed Queensland Mining Communities alliance met with Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Moranbah on Friday to voice concerns over the future of mining towns like Blackwater.

It proved to be a busy first week for the group, which met with Premier Anna Bligh to discuss similar issues the day before.

The meetings came on the back of a recent report detailing an affordability crisis in Queensland mining towns, in which Moranbah ranked the most expensive town to live, with Blackwater closely behind.

Inaugural QMC president Kelly Vea Vea said there was a common thread of problems being experienced in mining communities across Queensland, which was the reason 10 community representatives from Blackwater, Moranbah, Moura, Dysart and Collinsville came together to form the new statewide peak body last Saturday.

Ms Vea Vea said the region faced two very different outcomes if growth was not managed sustainably.

“Everything comes down to population balance,” she said.

“With huge transient worker populations, essential services come under strain. For example, the Moranbah Police Station is only funded to look after the permanent residents - about 9000 - but at any given time they could be looking after 13,000 or over.”

Ms Vea Vea said concerns were raised to the PM about population imbalances that develop in mining communities when large-scale mining projects are approved without reference to housing.

“We stressed the importance of taking a whole-of-government approach to the development of resource communities,” Ms Vea Vea said.

“We believe the State and Federal governments’ regionalisation of population strategies should incorporate strategies to maintain and improve essential services to encourage families to move to the region so communities can remain viable - not just bus stops on the road to massive mining industry profits.”

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said the scarcity of housing in mining communities was the “villain in the piece”.

“Take out housing, and the cost of living in resource communities is on par with much of regional Queensland,” he said.

“If anti fly in fly out campaigners get their way, we will simply see hundreds more mine workers competing for already scarce housing stock and driving housing costs even higher.

“What is really needed is an affordable housing strategy, especially in response to the recommendations for Moranbah and Blackwater from the Urban Land Development Authority, now with the Deputy Premier.

“Resource communities are in real danger of losing the people who work in their schools, hospitals, shops, state and local authorities unless we see some real action on affordable housing.”

Ms Vea Vea warned that QMC would not accept a development plan that damaged local residents, families and Central Queensland’s long-term economic viability.

There is no excuse for substandard, ill-conceived and practically self-regulated plans that fail to deliver sustainable development, she said.

Blackwater Community Progress Group chairman Kev Cracknel is the man chosen to represent the town’s concerns through the united panel.

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