Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown
Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown

Qld mayors voice regional concerns at CSG mining conference

WE WANT your billions of dollars, your infrastructure - but take it easy on the high-vis and mining camps.

Two regional mayors - Western Downs current leader Ray Brown and former Gunnedah mayor Adam Marshall - hit the stage of a giant coal-seam-gas conference to a room filled with executives to warm them to tread carefully with their towns.

Mr Marshall said his area - facing an explosion of growth and development in coal seam gas mining - effectively banned fly-in, fly-out mining, saying he did not want the area overrun by blow-ins wearing fluorescent vests.

The ever-present orange uniform has already become a staple of mining areas in Central Queensland, where they are spotted on the streets, in bars, and especially at airports.

Gunnedah was fighting a declining population but now there is growth in the New South Wales township.

It will likely evolve into a regional mining hub ready to service the surrounding coal basin - but it will happen on Gunnedah's terms.

"We don't want to see our community overrun by people wearing high visibility," Mr Marshall said.

The revolving-door mining camps seen in Western Australia or Central Queensland will be replaced by long-term housing.

"We want you in the region, we need the energy you create and the opportunities you create."

For Cr Brown, his 32,000 residents from 99 communities in the Western Downs were no longer bracing for a deluge of cash and development - they were "a wallaby on a hay bale in the middle of a flood".

He celebrated the investment in the surrounding Surat Basin, west of Toowoomba, but was realistic about its consequences.

It has 1.9% unemployment, a rate low enough for the mayor to simultaneously brag and lament that even dogs in his town now have work.

In just one month earlier this year, his council waded through development applications worth $10.2.billion - more than 30 times the region's annual council budget.

"Three weeks ago, on my desk when I came back from Brisbane, was a little program about building some houses.

"One company lodged a plan to build 3847 homes in the towns of Chinchilla and Miles for a cost of $2.billion. Where else in Australia is that occurring?

"But when houses go to $1000 or $2000 a week in rent, you tell me how to keep that girl or guy on a check-out or serving coffee in that town?

"It's a key issue for us in the future."

He warned conference guests his community would not be distracted by the big numbers, and neither would he.
"Don't be blinded by the money, focus on the future we can provide.

"All we're asking is for everyone to be transparent with the community and leave a legacy we can be proud of."



A guide by Western Downs Mayor Ray Brown

"If you think I'm the mayor of mining, think again.

Twenty-two years ago I went into government because someone polluted my river. There is an awful green streak in this brown body.

You say you're going to employ locals? Guess what you just did, you just poached our workforce.

I know dogs that have gotten jobs here.

(On finding staff) They have a piece of yellow equipment and know how to use it? You take them.

We're a wallaby on a hay bale in the middle of the floods.

Every block of dirt is someone's castle.

Chinchilla doesn't have a traffic light… meanwhile it has three beautician shop staff because guess what, there are a lot of women employed in the CSG industry.

They're not like us blokes going out and buying cars and boats.

They go to the beautician and the jewellery shop and have a whale of a time."