Mayors say population decline comments 'very dangerous'

DIVIDED OPINION: Comments made by Federal Member for Maranoa Bruce Scott about population declines following the completion of coal seam gas pipelines have been labelled "totally wrong" by mayors in the Surat Basin.
DIVIDED OPINION: Comments made by Federal Member for Maranoa Bruce Scott about population declines following the completion of coal seam gas pipelines have been labelled "totally wrong" by mayors in the Surat Basin. Contributed

MAYORS in the resource-rich Surat Basin have blasted comments made by Federal Member for Maranoa Bruce Scott about communities preparing for a population decline as "misinformed" and "very dangerous".

In a television interview last week, Mr Scott said he believed the completion of coal seam gas pipelines linking the region to the liquefied natural gas plants on Gladstone's Curtis Island would signal a major turnaround in population growth around Dalby, Chinchilla and Roma.

The political stalwart's sentiments are not shared by Western Downs Regional Council Mayor Ray Brown and Maranoa Regional Council Mayor Rob Loughnan, who told the Dalby Herald the development of towns within their respective local government areas had been geared towards the operational and maintenance phases of projects, not initial construction.

"Look, we've said all along we're developing our communities in relation to the operations and maintenance," Cr Brown said.

"The construction workforces will start to wane in certain areas…but you've still got an enormous drill program ahead of you.

"They're the people who are going to live in your towns."

A 2013 report by Energy Skills Queensland suggests that employment in the state's resources sector will peak at almost 15,000 in 2024.

When asked to clarify the comments he made during the interview, Mr Scott said he believed they may have been taken out of context.

"It's brought new job opportunities and new wealth, but what I was saying also is that we'll shortly start to see the reduction of personnel involved with gas development as they move from construction to production," he explained.

"We need to be prepared for the inevitable turning point when they fly- in, fly-out workforces are reduced.

"I did not say there were going to be no jobs."

Cr Loughnan said he had fielded numerous calls from concerned residents who had seen the interview.

"I was very concerned that our federal member appeared to be celebrating what he predicts will be the ultimate decline in rural population…over the next twelve months," he said.

"A lot of people have invested a great deal to build their businesses and relocate their families into this region, and that statement has to be hurtful for those who have taken a chance."

Cr Brown said while overall worker numbers would decrease post-construction phase, he believed it was the operational and maintenance phases that had the potential to "build communities".

"Our towns aren't going to go back to what they were previously, there's no doubt about that," he said.

Topics:  bruce scott chinchilla coal seam gas csg dalby gas liquefied natural gas lng maranoa regional council mining ray brown resources sector roma surat basin western downs regional council

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