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Surat population set to spike

As coal seam gas operations ramp-up in the Surat Basin area, the population is set to spike, according to reports published by the Queensland Treasury and Trade this year.

The Downes Group has been delivering essential environmental planning services to the emerging CSG sector in the area, and senior consultant Peter Syson says, the Surat Basin Population report reveals that the population has increased by 1470 to 204,020 between 2010-11.

“The number of non-resident workers jumped by 730 to 3270, while the number of local residents were up by 740 to 200,750,” Syson says.

The report expects the population to peak in 2014, coinciding with the existing operations and projects approved in mid-2011. Citing figures from the report, the projected population for non-resident workers is expected to hit 5980, up from the 2890 recorded in June last year, he says.

However, there are a number of coal seam gas drilling and upstream facilities, which were yet to be approved and not considered in the report. Based on this, there is expected to be a much higher peak for a longer period of time, while the pipelines are being constructed.

“It is considered that due to the impending development occurring and projects not being acknowledged in the report, population forecasts for the region have been significantly underestimated,” Syson says.

“We note the increase in the population forecasts since the 2010 report.”

  Estimated ResidentPopulation Estimated Non-Resident Population Estimate

Maranoa

Change 2010-2011

13,460

60

1,160

230

14,620

290

Western Downs

Change 2010-2011

32,360

670

2,000

750

34,360

1420

Toowoomba

Change 2010-2011

154,930

10

110

-250

155,040

-240

Surat Basin Total

Change 2010-2011

200,750

740

3,270

730

204,020

1470


Meanwhile, according to the report, in June 2011, about 4260 people were working in the mining and gas industry in the Surat Basin.

“Contractors accounted for 61 per cent, while the remaining 39 per cent were company employees,” Syson said.

“Around 32 per cent of the region’s reported mining and gas industry workers were local residents, while more than 68% were non-resident workers.

“More than 68 per cent non-resident mining and gas workers in Maranoa were likely to be fly-in-fly-out, and by contrast, the overwhelming 96 per cent of non-resident workers were drive-in-drive-out in Western Downs.”

Non-resident workers will take the majority of jobs, especially during the construction phase of projects, while local residents or people who are moving to the area to live will fill others, contributing to the growth in population.

Accommodation for non-resident workers will effectively reflect the existing trends with camps being provided within the Maranoa area, outside and to the north of the principal town of Roma and due to the close proximity of works around Chinchilla, Chinchilla is expected to be the preferred location.

Support industry and services are expected to be located substantially in Chinchilla, and the surrounding area in Western Downs, with businesses moving to that area.

“Our conclusion is that despite the larger proportion of accommodation for workers that will be provided in camps around Maranoa, we expect a substantial increase in non-resident population for Chinchilla and a significant increase in the demand for hotel, motel and caravan park accommodation.”