24/09/2008 - 22:00

Lessons in Pilbara growth

24/09/2008 - 22:00

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DEVELOPERS and planners in the Mid West should learn from the Pilbara to better understand the pressures that come along with being a 'boom town', according to Carr Civil Contracting managing director Mark Blayney.

Lessons in Pilbara growth

DEVELOPERS and planners in the Mid West should learn from the Pilbara to better understand the pressures that come along with being a 'boom town', according to Carr Civil Contracting managing director Mark Blayney.

As head of the Karratha-based contracting company, whose clients are some of the biggest operators in the region, Mr Blayney knows first hand the pressures and constraints faced by the towns on the frontline of the state's resources boom.

And he has issued a word of caution to what is shaping up to become the state's next emerging resources province, the Mid West.

Mr Blayney has urged those in the region to look past the short-term economic gains and think for the longer term.

At the forefront of his concerns is the wage pressure that comes with a mining boom.

He said local businesses would find it difficult to compete with the wages being offered by the mining companies, and could have problems attracting and retaining staff.

Mr Blayney said the skills and labour shortage meant that even unskilled employees, such as trade assistants, could earn up to $2,000 a week on some major resources projects.

"The major mining companies can pass on the costs...but who's going to suffer is the small shop owners," Mr Blayney told those at the 2009 40under40 Awards launch.

"[As an] owner of a Jeanswest shop or something like that, are you going to compete with your assistant who's walking out and working on the Oakajee port and rail project where he's going to take home $2,000 a week?"

He added that other pressures, such as housing demand, would also bear down on local towns as the influx of workers looked for accommodation.

"In Karratha, there's a shortage of accommodation. Up there a standard four-bedroom two-bathroom house, the one we rented for our workshop manager last week, was $1,900 a week for, and is tied in for at least 12 months with reviews every six months," Mr Blayney said.

"A lot of people don't think past what the short-term gains are; look at the long term."

Wage pressure has also hit Advance Physiotherapy Services owner Lisa Hutchinson, who has clinics in Perth and Newman offering pre-employment medicals to mining workers.

Ms Hutchinson jokes that she was contemplating opening a truck-driving business, after losing one of her Newman-based therapists to a job as a truck driver on the mines because of the higher salary on offer.

Ms Hutchinson believes more money needs to be spent on regional infrastructure in the north of the state, and on vital services such as health, education and childcare.

"There's a constant turnover of people because they can't get the things they need done there."

And as for Colin Barnett's idea to create new Dubai-like oasis developments in the state's north, which already has the backing of FMG's Andrew Forrest, Ms Hutchinson says "bring it on".

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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