Work opportunities emerge in Gunnedah

Relocating to a town that is more than just liveable could overcome the challenges that accompany fly-in, fly-out rosters. Australian Mining looks at the business and employment prospects in Gunnedah, New South Wales.

Job opportunities abound in the Gunnedah region of New South Wales.

In February 2018, Coal Services registered a record number of 2420 people working in the Gunnedah region’s coal mines.

This is a hike of 136 jobs from December 2017, and an increase of 2000 local mining jobs since February 2010.

In 2018, Whitehaven Coal managing director and chief executive Paul Flynn revealed company plans to recruit more than 1500 men and women to its existing local workforce over the next decade.

Crawford Boots founder Penny Crawford says the two predominant industries of mining and agriculture allowed Gunnedah to ride through one the worst droughts it has ever experienced last year.

“From what I gather, most of the people who work in mining feel very fortunate to be in that industry and appreciate the opportunities that are given to them,” she tells Australian Mining.

“They’re able to live in a smaller town with great schools, facilities and a sense of community. Housing and schooling are also affordable. There is a very good work life balance too. For those who want to move to a rural town, this is a fantastic opportunity for them.”

A business owner herself, Crawford saw an opening during her 30-year career as a podiatrist. More and more mine workers in the region had come to her with a common issue that motivated her to sell her business and found Crawford Boots 18 months ago.

“The patients that I used to see were underground workers who were wearing old gumboots,” Crawford says.

“These gumboots are likely to cause them injuries. Imagine walking 12 hours in the dark in the water or on uneven ground in old gumboots. So, I’ve built waterproof boots or gumboots that fit like leather boots.”

While Crawford’s waterproof boots are described as the Nike of gumboots for their ability to provide ankle support and stability, she credits mining as the “star” of her business.

“Mining has enabled a continual boom in the economy of Gunnedah. It’s been a good thing for the region, and it has also moved with the time,” Crawford says.

“They’re looking at gender diversity, local suppliers and how they can contribute to the local communities. There are also now more females who are employed in the open cut mines and operating machineries.

“We are very fortunate to be in a beautiful part of New South Wales. There are lots of industries here that are looking to fill mechanical and engineering roles, as well as those who are young and middle aged who want to relocate with their families.”

Crawford, who moved to Gunnedah from Tamworth, is not the only local in the NSW town that has seen her living standard improve since relocating.

Although the agricultural sector has been known to be a source of vitality in the region, mining operations have proven to attract plenty of business investment indicative of rising job demands.

Jacinta Mannion, founder of Gunnedah fleet vehicle rental Ultra Fleet, says her family relocated to the region almost a decade ago.

She moved with four mine spec vehicles nine years ago and has since grown her fleet to over 120 vehicles.

Similarly, the vibrancy of mining activities in Gunnedah has caused her husband’s local business, Mannion Drilling, to soar.

A provider of exploration holes and water drilling services, his business has grown from a one-rig operation to be 14 rigs strong.

This supports findings in the NSW Minerals Council’s 2016-17 expenditure survey, which found that its member companies had spent $106.3 million in the Gunnedah local government area, including $46.1 million in purchases with 164 local businesses.

“Mining activities in the region have given numerous people opportunities that they otherwise would not have,” Mannion says.

“This includes lower income earners who have the opportunity to earn bigger income and further their career, and those who live within a 150-kilometre radius of the Gunnedah Basin.

“With the growth that we’ve seen, there are still plenty of work opportunities in Gunnedah.”

This feature also appears in the October edition of Australian Mining.

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