North West Star
30 May 2012
In a Newspoll exclusive to the Institute of Public Affairs, 63 per cent of Australians said increasing the population of North Australia would be a good thing. Among the towns pinpointed for that growth are Cloncurry and Mount lsa.
Reporter Brad Thompson looked at the implications of such growth.
MOUNT Isa can return to its “glory days of the 1970s”, says Brett Peterson, president the Mount Isa Chamber of Commerce.
“I’d dearly love to see the 35,000 to 40,000 people like it was back in the 1970s,” he said.
“We’re in the world’s richest mineral province and we should be taking advantage of that.”
Mr Peterson admitted said there was “lot of scope” for the city increasing its population but said affordable housing and social infrastructure needed to be in place.
John Shipp, director of the North Australia Project and head of the Institute of Public Affairs which commissioned the poll, said public opinion is firmly on the side of a higher population in North Australia.
And he identified Mount Isa Cloncurry and the North West as leading areas for potential population growth during the resources boom.
“Mount Isa could be a more flourishing town – active and vibrant,” Mr Shipp said.
“The North West area is underpopulated and under-developed.”
Mr Shipp said Mount Isa and the region has “massive potential” for growth with new projects and employment opportunities in the mining, energy and tourism sectors.
Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady agreed, saying the survey results backed up his vision for the region.
Last week, Cr McGrady addressed a letter to Premier Campbell Newman, requesting a meeting to discuss stage two of the Carpentaria Mount Isa Mineral Province.
The letter said: “The time is right to start the next phase of the province due to the development boom with the advent of the Legend deposit, coal reserves around the Hughenden and Pentland area, and the proven uranium deposits around Mount Isa and the Gulf.
“Off the top of my head, that could bring in more than 1000 people, plus their families,” McGrady said.
“We are on the dawn of a new and exciting era if the government makes the right and correct decisions.
“If they lift the ban on uranium mining, explorers will come in and who knows what new deposits they will find, and that’s what some people just can’t comprehend.”
Mr Shipp said: “A lot of people were in support of more people in the North West to create economic diversity, and more jobs,” he said.
“Mount Isa has the potential to be a booming city.”
Mr Shipp said increased population hinged on available employment and opportunities.
“It’s all based on what jobs are on offer,” he said.
“There’re a lots of jobs going begging and there’re a lot of people across the North West who want to be able to sell their product.
“But they need to find more people, and the right people with the right skills, to create those economic opportunities.”