BETTER FUTURE: Gympie Mayor Mick Curran, North Burnett Mayor Rachel Chambers, Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey and Bundaberg port manager Jason Pascoe at the Widebay Burnett Regional organisation of councils forum in Bundaberg on October 11.
BETTER FUTURE: Gympie Mayor Mick Curran, North Burnett Mayor Rachel Chambers, Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey and Bundaberg port manager Jason Pascoe at the Widebay Burnett Regional organisation of councils forum in Bundaberg on October 11. Jessica McGrath

How can we reverse our shocking unemployment rate?

THE Burnett and Wide Bay is home to the highest level of recorded unemployment in Australia.

This is according to the 2018 to 2019 state of the regions report by the Australian Local Government Association.

Industry professionals shared and discussed ways to reverse these statistics at the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils' economic development forum in Bundaberg on October 11.

Bundaberg mayor Jack Dempsey said his first call to action would be getting the report into place, collated by Deloitte Access Economics, before lobbying for government funding.

"Our time frame is to get the report and direction to go ahead, and now to work with state and federal governments to get a taskforce in place, and be able to access other funding," he said.

Forum speaker from .id, Katrina Houghton, said the Wide Bay Burnett had seen a big decline in agriculture, forestry and fishing jobs and education and training jobs between 2016 and 2017.

"The unemployment in our region is probably a little bit higher than we'd like," she said.

"Compared to other regions, we're not as attractive."

Reports showed a lag in professional services in the Wide Bay Burnett.

Bundaberg Council's economic development and strategic projects executive director Ben Artup said to address the unemployment the Wide Bay Burnett would need to focus on the specific industries they are strong in, such as agriculture.

One in five of all of Queensland's agricultural jobs are located within the Wide Bay Burnett.

This would include equipping people with the skills for the Wide Bay Burnett's major industries.

 

MORE JOBS: Bundaberg Council economic development executive director Ben Artup discusses future trade options at the WBBROC regional economic development growth forum in Bundaberg on October 11.
MORE JOBS: Bundaberg Council economic development executive director Ben Artup discusses future trade options at the WBBROC regional economic development growth forum in Bundaberg on October 11. Jessica McGrath

"More importantly it's looking at the vital role infrastructure plays across the industry," Mr Artup said.

Analysis had shown the best solution to the mass unemployment would be $2.696 billion of targeted infrastructure investment across 12 identified projects by 2035.

This would see 24,735 additional full time equivalent jobs, $6.05 billion in additional economic activity, and a 5.4 per cent increase in gross regional product.

"The economies and the industries will be able to use that infrastructure to grow and thrive," Mr Artup said.

Alternatively, a lower growth solution, closer to current developments, would be investing $521 million of infrastructure across the region.

"This would lead to delays in trade and economic growth across the region," he said.

This scenario would provide 8245 additional jobs and $1.95 billion in additional gross regional product, excluding projects such as necessary upgrades to the Burnett Highway, and a new rail link between the Port, the North Burnett Minerals Province and the outer harbour.

With a difference of 16,500 additional jobs between scenarios, it is important to prioritise funding to ensure infrastructure is built soon rather than later.

"That's a big number of jobs that could be lost if we don't get this right as a region," Mr Artup said.

More than $4.1 billion in additional economic activity and 16,490 jobs could be lost for the Wide Bay Burnett over the next two decades if only low levels of infrastructure investments are made.

Job Facts

Wide Bay Burnett jobs: 104,185 jobs in total

Growing Industries - percentage of Wide Bay Burnett jobs (2016/17):

Education and training: 8 per cent

Agriculture, forestry and fishing: 10 per cent

Health Care and Social Assistance jobs:15 per cent

Transport, postal and warehousing: 5 per cent.