Lack of housing handbrake on local growth opportunities

By Paula Doran

Broken Hill needs to overcome its current housing shortage to capitalise on future opportunities for growth, according to Foundation Broken Hill as its Chairman points out some 1250 new mining jobs are set to arrive in the next few years and we don’t have enough homes for them.

The concerns are echoed by regional forecasters who say housing capability will be the major handbrake in the burgeoning opportunities faced across regional and remote Australia.

Members of the Regional Australia Institute’s Regional Australia Council (RAC) met last week for the first time following the launch of the RAI’s Regionalisation Ambition 2032 – A Framework to Rebalance the Nation (the Ambition).

Council members include heavy-hitters Aurizon, Australia Post, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Commonwealth, Domain, Elders, Essential Energy, Expedia Group, KPMG, NAB, nbn co., Nutrien Ag Solutions, NRMA, Optus, Transgrid, Telstra and Woolworths.

The Ambition was co-developed by RAC members to advance solutions to regional Australia’s challenges and to capture the opportunities over the next 10 years.

Members once again reported that finding workers and the availability of housing were the biggest challenges when doing business in the regions.

“Council members make up some of regional Australia’s biggest employers,” RAI CEO Liz Ritchie said.

“The consistent message from RAC members is that finding enough people with the requisite skills is becoming more and more difficult.”

This is in the context of this week’s record 93,000 regional job vacancies as reported by the National Skills Commission.

“Central to the job challenge is a historically tight regional rental market, which is impeding the attraction of new recruits to our regions and therefore putting a handbrake on business growth,” Ms Ritchie said.

“In order to change our future, we must act and think differently, and we must call on our leaders to do the same. Australia needs a tailored regional lens on the issues affecting our nation. We are not a homogeneous nation, we are diverse and this requires unique solutions and settings.”

Foundation Broken Hill echoes those calls, outlining an additional 400 to 1250 mining jobs on the horizon for the region.

Foundation Chairman, John Lynch OAM, said the priority for the region was to attract residential, rather than FIFO workers.  “Which means we need to find solutions to the barriers we currently face.

“Broken Hill’s housing stock currently is short of both quantity and quality and our CEO has been researching, consulting and drafting options for ways we could help,” Mr Lynch said.

“We are pursuing discussions with all levels of government – Federal, State and Local – as we believe only a true partnership can provide the basis for a solution to our issue.

“Our timeframe is very short, as many of these jobs will be wanted within three years.

“We will continue to work on it, prioritising our resources as much as we can.

“This city has always been resourceful and resilient in the face of obstacles, and we now have another opportunity to show and prove our ingenuity and sustainability,” Mr Lynch said.

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