JOB FUTURES: Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt defends long-term plans for the Bundaberg region.
JOB FUTURES: Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt defends long-term plans for the Bundaberg region. Mike Knott BUN090718FLIGHT8

CRISIS POINT: Fears more will be jobless in Bundy

BUNDABERG is one of Australia's unemployment hotspots and a concerned local has predicted things are going to get worse.

Port Curtis Coral Coast Trust Ltd general manager Daniel Reeves' job is to stimulate employment outcomes for indigenous people.

Mr Reeves said it was near impossible for him to do that while the town as a whole was struggling to find work.

"The overarching goal to come from this is to have a coordinated employment effort in the region," Mr Reeves said.

Mr Reeves was formerly in economics development at the council, and has been voicing his concerns to local politicians for the past 18 months but is struggling to get traction.

"I met with Keith Pitt about this time last year, but that wasn't too eventful," he said.

After the loss of employment coordinators, Mr Reeves feels as though there is no agenda for jobs growth moving forward and said what's being done is nowhere near enough.

"If the regional development fund for our region, if they spent the entire budget for all of Australia here, it still wouldn't be enough," he said.

Mr Reeves' calculations, based on population, business and jobs growth, paint Bundaberg's future in a somewhat undesirable light.

According to the Bundaberg Region Facts and Figures report released in December 2017, the Bundaberg economy grew at an average annual level of 2.4 per cent over the previous five years.

He explains that if the current population projections and the employment participation rate of 52.3 per cent continue, by the year 2022 there will be 8548 more people and only 2226 new jobs.

For the Bundaberg region to simply remain at its current 9.2 per cent unemployment rate, he said, an additional 2244 jobs would be needed.

"The population has historically grown at 1.3 per cent for the last 15 years or so. So if you just extrapolate that, it's pretty straight forward," he said.

"Council are doing great things, and I think the development is great, but it's not enough. They're not going to create 2200 jobs in that period, it's just as simple as that."

A high level approach and lobbying to State and Federal Government is the only way to save the region, Mr Reeves believes.

"There has to be a coordinated agenda for addressing unemployment with Pitt, Batt, Bennett and Dempsey leading the charge, not just a talk fest, they need to say, 'This is a crisis point,' and if we don't act now and get the right investment in the region, we're going to be looking at worse unemployment figures moving forward," he said.

"It's a bit alarmist, and it's meant to be a bit alarmist, but if they don't do anything we're going to be in the exact same position, or a worse position."

Mr Pitt said he met with Mr Reeves late last year to discuss the matter and offered to make another appointment with him as recently as Wednesday.

"I am willing to work with anyone for the betterment of the region and my focus has always been, and will continue to be, about job creation," Mr Pitt said.

"Discussions with my federal colleagues about the possibility of a regional cities deal are ongoing. This type of deal would see the Federal Government working with State and Local Government to come up with a long-term plan for growth and opportunities for the region.

"In the last 12 months alone there has been millions injected into the Hinkler electorate to boost the regional economy and create jobs.

"Programs like the Building Better Regions Fund has invested $16.3 million in round one and an additional $10 million in Round two, announced earlier this month.

"The Wide Bay-Burnett Regional Jobs Investment Package is five projects in Hinkler worth $30.8 million, resulting in 99 construction jobs and 333 ongoing position.

"The Wide Bay will be one of the Regional Employment Trials and an Entrepreneurship Facilitator for mature aged Australians will be based in Bundaberg.

"While the population may be rising in this region, there is an older than average demographic, which means many of these people are not of working age."

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