Talking up the region's resources sector in coronavirus recovery are (from left) RIN acting general manager Dean Kirkwood, East West Lighting owner Lance Walk and RIN chair Dave Hartigan.
Talking up the region's resources sector in coronavirus recovery are (from left) RIN acting general manager Dean Kirkwood, East West Lighting owner Lance Walk and RIN chair Dave Hartigan.

How savvy businesses will prop up country’s COVID recovery

THE resources sector will underpin the national economic recovery from coronavirus, but the impact on the industry itself will not be known for years.

But what is emerging across the Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday region is a trend of businesses adjusting and adapting their operations to meet changing demands during the pandemic.

Among them is Mackay-based METS business East West Lighting which Resource Industry Network described as a classic example of adaptability and capability during adverse conditions.

East West Lighting owner Lance Walk said the business was hit on several fronts including cancelled or postponed mining shutdown work, and forcing it to implement new ways to manage its unaffected projects and workforce.

“We had to cut back staff hours so instead of working a full week, they would work three days, and a staggered roster meant we could have workers available five days a week,” Mr Walk said.

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“Our staff were incredibly understanding and flexible when we proposed this working arrangement, and combined with our eligibility for the JobKeeper subsidy, it allowed us to operate albeit with a level of ambiguity.”

RIN acting general manager Dean Kirkwood said the impact the resources sector had, and would continue to have, on the state and national economy during coronavirus recovery was yet to be fully quantified.

“But what is clear is that resources, and by default, the METS sector, has largely carried the Queensland economy, and to some extent, the national economy,” he said.

“In that respect, we recognise the industry’s fortunate position throughout the past six months, and at the same time, acknowledge that other industries have not enjoyed the same journey.

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“As the voice for the Mackay-Isaac-Whitsunday region’s METS sector, it’s important to emphasise the role that our local METS businesses have played in keeping the region’s mines operational, while at the same time, feeling the pinch of financial uncertainty themselves.

“Their capacity, combined with their business acumen, to continue to provide equipment, engineering capability, maintenance services, production capability, statutory coverage, and specialised safety and training services has meant that production on the mine sites has been maintained, despite border closures.”

RIN chair David Hartigan said the resources industry and METS sector was familiar with very robust safety standards built from decades of knowledge and experience.

“As an industry, we are well conditioned to the type of behavioural discipline that is required to manage COVID-19,” he said.

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“The resources sector continues to inject millions into the Queensland economy at a time when money is desperately needed to fund the health and welfare systems, along with adequate stimulus measures.

“As an organisation representing those in the sector, we’d like to see policies that continue to support the ongoing success of the resources sector, as well as initiatives that encourage investment in innovative practices in METS.

“We need to remember that people from COVID-19 affected countries around the world continue to need food, materials, and energy.

“Primary production keeps going regardless of the crisis, so we are in a privileged position to maintain jobs, create new ones, contribute a commodity that’s essential for the production of medical equipment and other lifesaving equipment, and to support other communities and sectors through mining royalties.”