June 3, 2014
The South Burnett’s economy is in the top 30 per cent of Australian local government economies, South Burnett Directions (SBD) board members were told yesterday.
Mr Reuben Lawrence, from Toowoomba-based economic consultants Lawrence Consulting, presented the latest economic analysis of the region to the meeting, which was held in Kingaroy.
He said an analysis of data collected from a number of sources showed the South Burnett was above average in population growth, economic growth, Gross Regional Product per capita, productivity level and economic diversity.
However we were lagging in employment growth, unemployment, growth in dwelling approvals, average business turnover and per capita income.
His firm prepared the report for the Wide Bay-Burnett Regional Organisation Of Councils (WBBROC), which represents the councils of the South and North Burnett, Cherbourg, Gympie, Fraser Coast and Bundaberg.
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Mr Lawrence told attendees the latest analysis showed the entire Wide Bay-Burnett had undergone a mini recession during the past 12 months.
This had slowed population growth below long-term averages, increased the South Burnett’s unemployment rate to 7.4 per cent, produced a 6 per cent contraction in local employment opportunities and led to a sharp drop-off in dwelling approvals in the last year.
However, he felt this was due to flow-on effects from the 2013 floods and would likely reverse itself in the year ahead.
Long term averages showed the region was growing at a rate of 1.3 per cent during normal times, he said.
This was about mid-range for most Australian LGAs, and only slightly below Australian averages.
This growth would flow on to housing approvals and the construction industry in due course.
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While high, the South Burnett’s unemployment rate was also the second-lowest in the Wide-Bay Burnett.
And its Gross Regional Product per capita and hourly productivity levels were the highest of the six councils included in the latest study, though this was largely due to the key roles the mining industry and the Tarong Power Stations played in the region’s economy.
At 0.482, the region’s economic diversity index was also about mid-range.
While a higher number was generally better to help insulate a local economy against shocks to any one particular industry sector, Mr Lawrence said it still compared very favourably on both a regional and a national scale.
The South Burnett also had a mid-range per capita income.
However, average annual business turnover figures in the South Burnett tended to be $40,000 to $80,000 a year lower than businesses in Gympie, Fraser Coast or Bundaberg.
Mr Lawrence said this might be because there were a higher number of small businesses in the region.
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Cr Kathy Duff, who attended the meeting as an observer, asked if Mr Lawrence’s firm had any data on the agricultural sector which could provide the group with guidance on how the region’s farming community was doing.
Mr Lawrence said he didn’t have any to hand, because his report aggregated all business types together to produce a broad overview of the key economic indicators.
Attendees then asked questions about how some of the measures were calculated, and why some were for recent periods while others were a few years behind.
Mr Lawrence explained this was due to different data sources.
Business turnover figures, for instance, were obtained from the Australian Taxation Office and had a longer lag time than building approval figures from regional council offices.
Similarly, some figures didn’t include businesses whose head offices were located outside the region – such as Swickers and Stanwell – while others such as Gross Regional Product were derived from a calculation based on employees working in the region regardless of where their employer’s head office was located.
The reason some calculations were used even if imperfect was because they allowed an “apples with apples” comparisons over a long period of time.
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The SBD meeting also paid a formal farewell to Captains Paddock Vineyard’s co-owner Maryanne Pidcock, who has served on the group since it was formed in April 2013.
SBRC Mayor Wayne Kratzmann advised attendees that Maryanne would be leaving South Burnett Directions after accepting a position in Sydney.
He thanked her for her hard work and many contributions to the group, and wished her well in her new role.