MP Ken O'Dowd has made a statement to Federal Parliament extolling the virtues of the Central Highlands. (File photo)
MP Ken O'Dowd has made a statement to Federal Parliament extolling the virtues of the Central Highlands. (File photo)

Central Highlands open for business despite mining pause

THE Central Highlands region is still open for business, despite the loss of jobs in the mining industry and associated industries.

Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd made a statement to Federal Parliament yesterday outlining the opportunities that existed in the region.

He said while the region had become known in recent years as being the epicentre of the mining industry boom, other industries from agriculture to tourism had continued to play a major part in the regional economy.

"The mining boom has created significant wealth and has fostered unprecedented growth in towns such as Emerald and Blackwater," Mr O'Dowd said.

"However, we know that it has also put pressure on the cost of living and housing availability.

"With the advent of the decrease of commodity prices and the new federal government taxes on commodities, communities have experienced a considerable slowdown in the mining operations, resulting in uncertainty created by the company restructuring.

"Despite this slowdown, the Central Highlands have a lot to offer." 

Mr O'Dowd said job losses in the mining industry and associated industries had become a feature of the region in recent months, with 150 redundancies at Ensham mine, 600 jobs lost to Xstrata across two states, including the Central Highlands, and a wind back of operations at Curragh mine from seven-day to five-day working week rosters.

"There are few new projects on the horizon, and the companies are sitting back and waiting and looking for further developments in the area," he said.

"Despite the uncertainty that job losses have created, the region still offers many positives. Agriculture, tourism and construction are the key economy drivers, as well as resource sectors.

"Affordability of the houses has dramatically improved, with average rent prices falling in recent months to around $580 per week for a four-bedroom home in Emerald." 

Mr O'Dowd said the unemployment rate was 2.6 per cent, by comparison to the state average of about 6.3 per cent, and there were lots of jobs available outside of mining.

"Whilst the current government is persisting in trying to crush the life out of the national resource sector with the carbon and mining taxes, the Coalition understands that these industries are not just cash cows for a government that cannot manage its own finances," he said.

"Aside from this, we have to take positives out of the current slowdown.

"This means the greater availability of labour for small and medium businesses in regional towns that have suffered through the lack of workforce availability in the past." 



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