On the edge of social dysfunction

A KPMG graph from Bernard Salt’s presentation which depicts Isaac’s population as more than 30 years ahead of its time.
A KPMG graph from Bernard Salt’s presentation which depicts Isaac’s population as more than 30 years ahead of its time.

BOWEN Basin towns will become dysfunctional if vital infrastructure and services are not boosted.

A staggering 44 doctors, 235 nurses, 72 police officers and 105 hospital beds are needed in the Isaac region in order to create sustainable and viable communities, according to Australia's leading demographer Bernard Salt.

The KPMG partner delivered the findings of a 12-month study into the Isaac Regional Council and said the dire discoveries may be based on one particular region but they applied to any areas with transient populations throughout the Bowen Basin.

The study found Isaac's permanent population rested at about 23,000, growing by 500 people a year.

"Any council should be able to cope with that (growth)," Mr Salt said.

"That is the permanent resident growth, but on top of that, the Isaac Regional Council has 26,000 FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) workers coming in and out every year. That nets down to 20,000 equivalent full-time residents. It might be 43,000 this year, but 52,000 next year."

The core problem in Isaac, Mr Salt said, was the additional 20,000 transient workers were leveraged off a tax base suited to a 23,000 population.

That means the IRC is catering for more than 43,000 residents with barely enough funds for half that.

The rate base, he said, provided for permanent residents, including core service workers such as nurses, teachers, doctors and police.

"(The) IRC is growing at 9000 people per year, and this means (it) is the fifth fastest growing municipality on the Australian continent," Mr Salt said.

"It compares with the Gold Coast adding 11,000. What is happening there is extraordinary.

"Now is the time to wake up and look at the real human needs of the people in these communities."

Mr Salt said the "sharp end" of the population growth was the lack of facilities and services, particularly health, which sin Isaac had a doctor patient ratio of 1:8000.

The Queensland average is one doctor to every 850 people, and Isaac's current six doctors are overwhelmed and overworked, requiring urgent attention.

"Isaac is at breaking point in services at the moment," Mr Salt said.

"What will happen if there is no response to the growth in mining and FIFO communities, you risk making dysfunctional communities.

"People who don't have a chance of getting into a dentist or orthodontist have to go to Mackay and that is a solution, but not a good one.

"Outsourcing the core of the town to some place else is not sustainable.

"If local communities and municipalities want to be sustainable, it's all about building the services."

IRC Mayor Cedric Marshall said the study's findings were not surprising as he "knew we had a lot of problems".

"This report validates what we've been telling the State Government for years. Once we get the actual blueprint, we will work forward on resolving these issues," he said.

Study snapshot

12% population increase in Moranbah from 2006-2010

Isaac's population is 30-40 years ahead of the curve

122% increase in non-resident population in Moranbah

971 hotel/motel beds needed, has 1163

235 nurses needed, has 50

105 hospital beds needed, has 66

72 police officers needed, has 23

44 GPs needed, has 6

13 paramedics needed, has 11

12 pharmacists needed, has 9

6 post offices needed, has 7

4 landfill sites, has 5

3 cinemas, has 0

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