13/04/2004 - 22:00

State braces for the impact from projects

13/04/2004 - 22:00

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AS the strong growth in major resource projects continues, the resulting social and economic impacts are providing concern for industry watchers, local communities and stakeholders.

State braces for the impact from projects

AS the strong growth in major resource projects continues, the resulting social and economic impacts are providing concern for industry watchers, local communities and stakeholders.

With more than $4 billion worth of resource projects set to come on line in the first half of 2005, the Western Australian Government and resource companies are considering their options for the looming shortage of skilled labour.

Further, local communities that are sustained by major resource projects are bracing themselves for the impact.

However, WA is already reaping the benefits of surging commodity prices in iron ore, gold, nickel, LNG and the insatiable international demand for these commodities that has resulted in many resource projects being expanded or fast-tracked.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist Nicky Cusworth said the State had already experienced marked economic benefits from the increased number and scope of resource projects.

Ms Cusworth said figures showed WA had experienced an average of 7.6 per cent growth each year over the past three years and in 2003 contributed almost 30 per cent of Australia’s total exports.

“The benefits are quite wide spread even if they are not immediately obvious,” she said.

“There are flow-on effects in other support sectors such as the service and production sectors.”

The timing of the big resource projects intersects with a period of buoyant engineering and construction activity across the nation.

With Australia’s unemployment rate at 5.6 per cent – the lowest level since 1989 – talk has turned to where the workers required for major projects will come from.

In a bid to tackle the problem, the WA Government has fast-tracked apprentice programs along with instituting a range of training and skill development initiatives to address particular areas where a skills shortage is expected.

However, at the coal face, there is concern among communities in the Pilbara and the Goldfields that burgeoning transient populations will create exorbitant hikes in housing and rental prices that will price locals out of the market.

Further, there is a fear that small local businesses will be unable to attract and keep employees as they are lured to work in better paying jobs on the major resource projects.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Tim Shanahan said the resources industry recognised the impact of major projects on small towns.

“The resources industry does try to smooth out the peaks and troughs,” he said.

A recent report by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, Adding Value to WA’s Resources Sector, estimated Western Australia’s minerals and energy industry to be worth $32.033 billion last financial year.

 

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