Industry workers to restart Gladstone's economy after bust

CHANNELLING former Prime Minister Paul Keating, both Gladstone Regional Council Mayor Matt Burnett and CEO Stuart Randle, said last year was in many ways "the year we had to have".

But despite the severe bust from the boom, in their overview in the council's annual report Cr Burnett and Mr Randle said Gladstone's "new normal" offered "great promise".

Although major industries in town had to cut jobs to stay afloat with commodity prices crashing, and small businesses did it tough as people left town, the housing market arguably took the biggest hit.

P&O Cruise Ship the Pacific Jewel arrives in Gladstone.
P&O Cruise Ship the Pacific Jewel arrives in Gladstone. Paul Braven GLA251016SHIP

Recent reports from real estate agents in town have suggested the housing market has bottomed out, with prices no longer declining. There has been a re-emergence of southern investors and rental vacancy rates are dropping.

At its peak between 2010 and 2015, just under 5000 homes were constructed in the region, but this influx of homes meant that when workers left Gladstone, the town was left with more than 1000 vacant homes.

The council's annual report expected the decline in the housing market to stretch on for more than a year.

"After successive years of leading the state's economy in terms of growth and productivity, it would have been easy to expect the Gladstone region to continue to ride the wave, immune to outside influences," an overview signed by Cr Burnett and Mr Randle said.

"Last year showed that all good things come to an end, but unlike in previous generations, the Gladstone economy is now resilient and self-sustaining, so a boom no longer has to end with a bust.

"It was a year of transition as we moved from the overheated economy created by the construction of a series of mega projects, to the new reality of post-boom organic growth and stability."

With a projected boost to Gladstone's population expected to hit above 100,000 by 2031, the region's transition has already begun. With Bechtel completing work on Curtis Island in October, Gladstone's focus is starting to turn to tourism and the lucrative cruise ship industry.

A survey of cruise ship passengers conducted by GAPDL found 95% of respondents said they spent an average of $111 onshore, which indicated more than $250,000 was splashed into the local economy during the first cruise ship visit.

However MRCagney urban town planner Steven Burgess said it would be remiss of the council to forget about heavy industry.

"New industries will come from the old industries and what tends to happen is that blue collar workers will stay in Gladstone while white collar workers drift back to Sydney because they want that urban lifestyle," he said.

"You need these workers to stay in Gladstone because they're the ones who will start businesses, provide jobs and eat at your restaurants and cafes."

Manager of recruitment agency Engage, Bobby Cox, said he expected jobs to continue to revolve around industry but with a boost in population he thought there would be more jobs pop up in retail and medical fields.

The council said "belt-tightening" was needed but that overall Gladstone had "thrived through the transition" and was in "great shape to capitalise on the opportunities that lie ahead".

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