The big news coming out of Queensland is the announcement of the state government’s new Major Resource Project Housing Policy, and the effect that it could have on the fly-in, fly-out worker culture.
High up on the policy’s agenda are the interests of communities affected by resources growth, and the need for greater accommodation options for resource workers.
“This policy cements the government’s position around supporting workers’ choice about where they want to live,” says Andrew Fraser, Queensland’s treasurer and minister for state development and trade.
“The convenience of modern air travel means many workers who want it all – a well-paying job in the mining sector and to live by the beach – can have the best of both worlds. Similarly many workers don’t want to commute, preferring not to be away from family.”
For new projects, resource companies will now be required to submit a workforce accommodation strategy that includes the accommodation and location preferences of workers.
So what does this all mean? While Fraser recognises the importance of the FIFO model to Queensland’s economic future, early signs of the impact of this new policy can be taken from recent developments in Moranbah.
Spurred by the concerns of the Moranbah community that it would miss out on the economic spoils of the proposed BMA Caval Ridge Mine, the Queensland government recently ruled that 80% of the mine’s employees must live in the region.
This is quite a turnaround from the 70% FIFO figure that had been initially approved, and the 100% FIFO figure that BMA had subsequently applied for.
The upshot is that BMA must now build 160 homes in Moranbah by 2013, and a further 240 across the Bowen Basin by 2017. It must also pump $5.5m into a regional youth and community services centre and contribute $2.5m towards redeveloping the local aquatic centre.
To add fuel to the FIFO fire, the federal government has also recently announced its own parliamentary inquiry into the impact of FIFO workforces.
According to the Department of Environment, Economic Development and Innovation, 38 resource projects set to come online in Queensland over the next six years (creating 30,000 new jobs). Investors will be keenly eyeing up the development of these projects to see which communities have the potential to become thriving regional centres.
Units on the up
Meanwhile, recently released REIQ figures from the June quarter of this year indicate that units and townhouses are on the up.
The standout performers over the quarter were the Gladstone LGA, with a median price rise of an incredible 27.7%, and Bundaberg, whose median price increase hit 15.4%.
In the case of Gladstone, however, the REIQ warns that its quarterly growth figure will have been skewed by the relatively small number of units on offer in the region – and therefore small sample of sales over the quarter – and the number of new sales that took place in a new townhouse complex in Telina.
That said, the more reliable 12-month growth rate for units and townhouses in the Gladstone LGA tips the scales at a more than healthy 17.7%.
Closer to Brisbane, units and townhouses in the Logan LGA saw a respectable quarterly median price rise of 5.8%, which sits in stark contrast to its 12-month figure of -3.3%.
“The affordability of units and townhouses, especially in times of economic uncertainty, is certainly helping to drive this segment of the market,” says REIQ managing director Dan Molloy.
And it certainly seems like the lower end of the market has seen the lion’s share of the action. REIQ figures indicate that the preliminary number of sales in the sub-$250,000 price bracket increased 13% over the June quarter, while sales in the $350,000-$500,000 price range increased by 5% over the same period.
“First home buyers and investors are also making a return after being fairly absent from the market for more than a year and their increased activity is partly behind the increase in the number of sales in the $350,000 to $500,000 price bracket, especially in the southeast,” notes Molloy.
“There has been increased activity in the sub-$400,000 price range on the Gold Coast with buyers recognising that there are currently a number of opportunities available due to the softer market conditions.”
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