The Western Australian resources sector is more concerned about skilled labour shortages than any other sector, according to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (CCIWA).
The CCIWA Business Confidence Survey for 2021 September quarter found that nine in 10 resources businesses still identify skills shortages as a barrier to business.
Despite this, the sector remains the most confident of any in Western Australia, with 76 per cent of resources businesses expecting stronger economic conditions to conclude 2021.
This was down 12 per cent on the June quarter, likely due to falls in iron ore prices.
CCIWA chief economist Aaron Morey said it was up to the State Government to facilitate growth across Western Australia’s economy – found to be short 55,000 workers.
“In addition to vindicating the National Cabinet roadmap, the results reinforce the need for the State Government to adopt measures to drive economic diversification,” Morey said.
“With a significant budget surplus, the Government has cover to fuel growth through tax and regulatory reform, as well as more strongly competing against other markets for business investment.
“Recent investment attraction efforts from Queensland and New South Wales show there is fierce competition for business investment.”
Skills shortages are also continuing across the wider Australian resources sector with the number of Australian hydrogeologists halved over the past 10 years, according to Flinders University’s National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT).
Groundwater scientists and engineers form pivotal parts of mining operations, with a 2013 Deloitte report attributing $34 billion per year to groundwater resources.
Effective management of groundwater resources impacts a range of people from big business to mining and agriculture communities.
Professor Peter Cook of the NCGRT said groundwater issues were only set to become more fragile.
“Water issues in the Murray Darling Basin are well known, but the demand for groundwater resources is occurring in all States and Territories,” Cook said.
“On top of this, climate change will mean less surface water available over much of Australia, and hence an increase in groundwater demand.”
In the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) last Water Account report in November 2020, it was found mining extracted 1,070 gigalitres of water.
This accounted for 1.4 per cent of Australia’s water use (76.2 gigalitres).