FIFO could save QLD tourism

The much-criticised fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) arrangements used in the resources industry may have more important benefits than first thought, particularly for the tourism market in Queensland.

Discussions are currently taking place to reinvent an unused Gold Coast airport terminal and use the region as a base for FIFO workers.

Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke would not reveal to The Australian which mining companies were involved, but did confirm an agreement is close.

"They would be skilled Gold Coast workers — plumbers, carpenters and engineers — flying out of here to the mines," he said.

In the midst of intense community opposition to the 100 per cent FIFO workforce proposed by BMA at its Caval Ridge mine, the Mayor says the city is finalising deals with several mines, but would not name companies.

If it goes ahead, up to 2000 mine workers would fly weekly out of the Gold Coast.

The region has suffered high levels of unemployment since the global financial crisis saw the construction industry crumble.

Cairns Mayor Val Schier told The Australian talks have taken place between the council and BMA about the region becoming a FIFO base and she believes it would bring a much-needed economic boost to the region.

"We would get many more people living and spending their earnings here," Schier said.

"It’s a way of us getting a share of the resources boom."

But Schier warned nothing is set in stone yet and despite an increase in tourism around Easter and the recent school holidays, the Queensland tourism industry is still struggling, due to the high Australian dollar and the ongoing effects of natural disasters on the state.

BMA is feeling the strain of the skills shortage like most other mining companies and currently has 750 vacancies in its business.

Across all of the state, it is estimated 4000 jobs are currently unfilled.

The federal government has unveiled plans to speed up apprenticeships and encourage more entrants into the resource sector, and has confirmed migration will play an important role in overcoming the current crisis.

Whitsunday Mayor Mike Brunker said does not support 100 per cent FIFO arrangements and instead wants miners from Galilee Basin projects to become coastal renters and fly to work.

"It will underpin our economy," Brunker said.

"If there’s two weeks of rainy weather, it hurts the tourism industry, but the mine workers and their families have high incomes and they will still shop and eat out at restaurants."

Yesterday it was revealed fly-in fly-out workers may decrease significantly in coming years, as the industry focuses on better health and safety of its staff.

Workers were snapped napping on concrete paths and benches at an airport and critics say the work arrangement is damaging employees, communities, families.

Image: News Ltd

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