Pilbara visit offers insight into future

Mount Newman in WA is home to Australia’s biggest open-cut mine.
Mount Newman in WA is home to Australia’s biggest open-cut mine.

A TRIP to Western Australia's resource-rich Pilbara region can provide vital insight into the future of Central Highlands mining communities.

Last week representatives from regional councils toured the west and returned with a list of urgent issues that need to be addressed as Queensland embarks further into its own mining boom.

Local Government Association Queensland president and Central Highlands deputy mayor, Paul Bell, said the Pilbara region gave a good insight into what's in store over the next few years.

"One aspect that stuck in my mind is the fact housing prices shot from 300 or so thousand dollars to $1.2 or $1.5 million in just a few years," Mr Bell said.

"It serves as a good warning of what could happen here if we don't address our emerging issues now.

"The housing issues in WA could easily transfer to Queensland and we need to act on this issue with a matter of urgency."

The three immediate areas of focus Mr Bell returned with, suggest the answer lies in building up, rather than out, and providing variety when doing so.

"We need to develop a council planning scheme that allows for high-density housing to be developed," Mr Bell said.

"And builders need to understand that we must break away from 700-800sq m blocks with just one residence on them.

"Lastly, council needs to look at what existing areas can be redeveloped into high density housing."

He said the best locations to do this were in and around existing urban areas.

"People need to be close to services, shops, schools and the like," Mr Bell said.

He also gave his support to the concept of a Royalties for Regions fund, which exists in WA and has been widely acclaimed as one of the great successes of the Pilbara region.

He said resource exploration was occurring at a higher rate than ever seen before.

"When it comes to developing these projects there will be huge pressure on communities - their services, amenities, waste management, everything," he said.

"We won't be able to keep up with the growth and that is where a program like this saves us, a fund that allows us to get the infrastructure need."

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