Gladstone Harbour.
Gladstone Harbour. Brenda Strong GLA110713PLAN

Post-boom: Our slow climb back

THE boom is over, but a new report is predicting Gladstone will still grow over the next 14 years.

Regional Australia Institute predicted Gladstone's compound annual growth rate between 2013 and 2031 would be 2.1%, which is below the predicted 2.7% national average. Between 2001 and 2013, Gladstone's growth rate was 6.4% - higher than any other regional city.

RAI chief Jack Archer said the lower growth rate was much more sustainable.

"It's hard to see the 5% to 6% growth coming back. But that's probably not a bad thing,” he said. "Growth around 2% seems much lower, but it is still growth and its sustainable growth.”

Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett said diversifying the economy was the key to ensuring continued growth.

"Gladstone has been through more booms and busts than probably any other city in Australia,” he said.

"We're more than just coal and aluminium. We're seeing an increase in tourism with P&O Cruise ships coming. We've got to look to agriculture and beef exports. We've got the greatest port in the world, that's our point of difference.”

Gladstone Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Carl Carter said the slower growth was the city getting "back to normal”. He said Gladstone still had a highly skilled workforce that could take advantage of emerging sectors.

"The end of that abnormal growth during the boom was always going to happen,” he said.

"It's really a time for Gladstone to find itself in other industries.”

Mr Archer said research showed the regions were a vital part of Australia's economic future.

"What we're getting at the moment is people looking at the latest 12 months of data and saying it's all about Sydney and Melbourne,” he said. "But when you look at the long-term performance it's not the view that really holds up. You hear a lot about how regional areas are struggling, but the economic modelling shows over the medium-term they're going to be fine.”

Local government alliance Regional Capitals Australia chair Shane Van Styn said the report showed population size was not the only economic indicator.

"This report is essentially saying cities of all sizes are dynamic,” he said.

- NewsRegional

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