Cloncurry Shire Community Plan. Background Report 4: results from the long distance commuter survey

Harwood, Sharon (2012) Cloncurry Shire Community Plan. Background Report 4: results from the long distance commuter survey. Report. Centre for Tropical Urban and Regional Planning, Cairns, QLD, Australia. (Unpublished)

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What is a Community Plan?

A Community Plan is a planning document that looks at medium and long range community needs and aspirations. The Plan is used to inform all other Council planning processes, including corporate planning, strategic land use planning and infrastructure planning.

The Local Government Act 2009 requires Council to create a Community Plan. There is no specific format or process that a Council must go through to create a Community Plan, each Council develops their own approach to meet the needs of the respective communities.

The Cloncurry Community Plan:

The Cloncurry Shire is working with James Cook University (JCU) and the communities within the Shire to develop their Community Plan. This report summarises the findings of the surveys completed by Long Distance Commuters to Cloncurry Shire.

This research examined the work/home environment of a Long Distance Commuter (LDC) to the Cloncurry Shire. The purpose of this research was to determine why they live where they live and what specific services and amenity values are sought at their current place of residence. Information such as this assists the Cloncurry Shire Council to understand the qualities that their communities must match in order to attract a permanent residential mining workforce to the Shire.

Long Distance Commuting to Cloncurry Shire:

Long distance commuting refers to travel from the usual place of residence for the purposes of work and remaining at the work destination for a period of time. This type of labour force has emerged as the demand for skilled workers outstripped the supply within local labour markets where the mines are located. This has been more recently adopted by the mining industry in the past 40 years as a more financially viable option to creating permanent mining towns.

As a consequence of long distance commuting, the practice of establishing or consolidating settlements in remote locations has virtually ceased and this type of work force has become an established transient sub population in remote Australia. The host communities believe that there is a lack of flow on economic benefits from this form of development and the commuters are typically unable to contribute to the civic life of the host community which is in part due to the demanding work rosters that they perform.

This study was specifically commissioned by the Cloncurry Shire Council in 2011 as part of the overall consultation for the Community Plan to provide an insight into the temporary sub population characteristics. More specifically the research sought to identify the important attributes and reasons why the long distance commuters chose and continue to live in their place of residence and to compare these to how they perceive Cloncurry.

Attracting a permanent residential mining workforce to Cloncurry Shire would enable the type of population growth that levers more secure revenue base for a range of essential services and infrastructure. One of the greatest challenges facing the Shire administration is funding the provision of services and at levels that are prescribed by the state, in addition to those demanded by the resident population. Evidence suggests that population out migration of permanent population is attributed to a lack of state controlled services for specific age cohorts for example secondary school education (refer to Background Report 1 – Demographic Characteristics and Background Report 2 - Community Survey).

To enable the Shire to specifically target and attract a permanent resident workforce they first required an understanding of their key characteristics.

One thousand four hundred and fifty five (1445) surveys (see Attachment 1) were distributed to mining companies based in Cloncurry Shire for completion. It was decided to limit the study to just mining companies with an established presence in the Shire as it is virtually impossible to determine which exploration company is working on which tenement and when. Nearly one third or 468 surveys were returned completed resulting in a response rate of 32%. The age of the LDC ranged from 19 to 65, half of the sample possessed a certificate or trade qualification and one quarter a tertiary qualification. Two thirds of the sample was single and 85% of the total sample was male.

Nearly 100% (99.4%) of the LDC sampled for this study (n=468) were temporary residents in the Shire (ie.0.6% were permanent residents in Cloncurry). Of those temporary residents, 96% flew to work at the commencement and completion of each roster rotation with 50% starting the journey from the Townsville airport. For nearly half of the sample (48.5%) the travel journey took less than three hours and for 17.5% greater than 7 hours.

Overall 51% of the LDC sample had been employed for less than two years by their current company. Of those who were employed as contractors (n=172 or 37% of the total sample), one fifth (20%) had been employed for more than five years and half (51%) for less than two years. Surprisingly 40% of the sample has been working more than 5 years in the North West Queensland (NWQ) area and nearly one quarter (25%) greater than 9 years. These results would indicate that the length of work at the prospective company in the shire is relatively low by comparison to the number of years worked in the NWQ area. This further suggests a work related commitment to the area, but not a personal commitment to living in Cloncurry Shire. In addition, the sample demonstrated a high level of experience as LDC workers to remote areas with more than 40% having greater than 5 years experience.

One quarter (28%) of the sample indicated that they would continue the commuting lifestyle for more than five years and slightly more than one quarter (29%) for between one and five years. For 41% of the sample they were unsure how much longer they would continue commuting for work.

Less than one fifth (19%) of the sample had plans to cease work in the mining industry within the coming one to five years and slightly less than half (46.4%) indicated that they would be working for at least the next five years in mining.

Would they move closer to work in the Cloncurry Shire?

The vast majority (94.6%) indicated that they had no intention of moving closer to work in the Shire. With results such as these it is not possible to derive statistically valid reasons to describe precisely why the LDC workers would not move. There is far too much variation in the sample characteristics within 94.6% of the sample that indicated that they would not move to Cloncurry to reliably identify predictor variables.

General conclusions and inferences can be made to indicate some of the major impediments to establishing a permanent residential workforce. These included:

1. Lack of Recreation and Entertainment (48.5%) 2. Family won't move (46.3%) 3. Lack of services (36.6%) 4. Lack of job opportunities for partner (32%) 5. Lack of Education opportunities (30%)

These results would indicate that a diversified economy (to employ partners), a range of education opportunities (for spouse and dependents), a full range of services (social and health infrastructure) and recreation infrastructure would describe some, but not all of the pre move conditions necessary to attract a permanent residential workforce.

For nearly half of this sample (48%) the roster system entailed eight days at work and six days at home (ie 8 on and 6 off). This is equivalent to 1:0.75 ratio (ie for every day worked they receive three quarters of a day off). Other rotations included 14 on and 7 off (1:0.5), 14 on and 14 off (1:1), 7 on and 7 off (1:1), and 4 on and 3 off (1:0.75). The roster system rotation is very different to that experienced in the mining sector twenty years ago or indeed even 10 years ago whereby the length of time away at work has dramatically reduced by proportion to the time spent at home. The author's own experience 25 years hence was three months on, 13 days a fortnight, 11 hours a day and 5 days home. This equates to 78 days on and 11 off or alternatively for every one day worked there was 0.14 of a day off.

This change in the roster system rotations is related to (amongst other things) improved transport efficiencies, supply and demand of skilled employees and global industry changes to the way in which mining companies operate (see for instance Markey 2011). The Cloncurry Shire will have to consider the market trends that the mining sector is undergoing in order to stay competitive in addition to creating solutions that meet both the needs of the current resident population and the high level of social infrastructure provision necessary to attract the LDC workforce to become permanent residents of the Shire.

The Strategies that emerged from this research for incorporation into the Community Plan include:

Strategy LDC1: Lobby the state of Queensland and the federal government to upgrade the status of the hospital to enable the provision of a wider range of specialist services.

Strategy LDC2: Cloncurry Shire Council and the Queensland Department of Community Services work together to develop and implement community safety plans (with KPI's), identify key safety priorities and seek funding to address accordingly.

Strategy LDC3: Create and implement a Shade Creation code within the planning scheme.

Strategy LDC4: Implement a Community Safety Plan.

Strategy LDC5: Lobby for reliable mobile phone coverage for all communities in the Shire, including the roll out of the National Broadband Network.

Strategy LDC6: Seek a review of air transport subsidies and scheduling polices to increase the affordability and frequency of air services.

Strategy LDC7: Formalise camping and recreation opportunities at water storages in the Shire (as per youth recommendations).

Strategy LDC8: Diversify and strengthen the local economy to provide a range of job opportunities.

Strategy LDC9: Address the education facilities and services at the senior level (high school) to be equivalent service provision to that delivered in the urban centres of Queensland.

Item ID: 34828
Item Type: Report (Report)
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Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2014 05:41
FoR Codes: 12 BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN > 1205 Urban and Regional Planning > 120501 Community Planning @ 100%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9401 Community Service (excl. Work) > 940199 Community Service (excl. Work) not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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