Construction is key to recovery for Central Queensland

ROCKHAMPTON has weathered the worst of the big mining industry job losses, but really needs the impetus of major construction projects to speed up a recovery.

That's the view of CQUniversity economics professor John Rolfe, who yesterday said construction was central to keeping the economy moving forward.

He also said an economic diversification into agriculture would be beneficial, but deliver a "slower" recovery process.

In a year when the mining downturn was a "major drag" on Central Queensland's economy, he said construction had been the region's "saving grace".

With about one third of the construction workforce at Gladstone's three gas projects hailing from Central Queensland, Mr Rolfe said it had kept the economy buoyant through mining slumps.

He said Rockhampton's own projects, including The Empire, have also been "wonderful" for the local economy.

"They've had a direct impact on the local economy through the construction phase," he said.

"They provide a bit more confidence to businesses and people in the community and over time they're transforming the heart of Rockhampton into a much more liveable city than it was in the past."

But with plans for Gladstone's construction to be largely completed in the next two years, Mr Rolfe said another 3000 to 4000 people would be left looking for work.

Mr Rolfe said one of the easiest ways to recover from construction slowing in Gladstone was to look for other big projects to "take up the slack".

He said ideal major projects included government-funded civil works, like roads and railways, new industry works, or residential and tourism projects like the proposed Great Keppel Island redevelopment.

A second, much slower, recovery process would involve moving to other sectors including agriculture and tourism.

"There's not the same return in those industries and we're competing against other parts of Australia, so it's not where we're really strong," Mr Rolfe said.

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