Steady growth predicted for Mackay in new research.
Steady growth predicted for Mackay in new research. Tony Martin

'We don't want the boom back'

A NEW report is predicting growth in Mackay will halve from the mining boom heights. But the city's civic and business leaders would not have it any other way.

Regional Australia Institute has predicted Mackay's compound annual growth rate between 2013 and 2031 will be 2.5% - below the predicted 2.7% national average growth rate.

Between 2001 and 2013, Mackay's growth rate was 5.7% - well above the 2.9% national average and equal second fastest in the country - equal to Darwin and behind Gladstone.

RAI chief Jack Archer said, despite the sharp decline, the predicted growth rate was far more sustainable than the boom growth.

"It's going to be very, very different. It's hard to see the 5-6% growth coming back. But that's probably not a bad thing,” he said.

"Growth around 2% seems much lower, but it is still growth and it's sustainable growth.”

Mackay mayor Greg Williamson and Mackay Chamber of Commerce vice president Dave Whitson agreed Mackay did not want the boom back.

Cr Williamson said slow and steady growth was what Mackay needed.

"We don't ever want to go back to that uncontrolled growth,” he said.

Cr Williamson said the city was looking to expand industries such as tourism and biofuels to better diversify the economy and stop Mackay relying on mining booms.

"We have some great industries like sugar, beef cattle and tourism that have been always there for Mackay. We let them get away from us for a while during the boom,” he said.

Mr Whitson said steady growth, not boom, was what the city needed.

"I don't think the town would want to go through what we went through in the mining boom again,” he said.

"A boom will eventually bring a bust. If we had more stable growth, I think that would be much better.”

Mr Whitson said things were starting to look up for Mackay.

"What you're seeing now is there actually a skills shortage in some areas. We haven't seen that in years,” he said.

"In saying that, there's still businesses out there failing. We're still feeling some of the impacts from the downturn.”

Cr Williamson said the council wanted to use Mackay's "livability” to attract people from capital cities.

"I tell people if you've got an $800,000 house in Sydney's outer suburbs, you can move to a house just as good here for half the price, 10 minutes from the beach, with great schools, health facilities and a university. And you'll have $400,000 in the bank account,” he said.

Mr Archer said the research showed regional Australia was a vital part of Australia's economic future.

"What we're getting at the moment is people looking at the latest 12 months of data and saying it's all about Sydney and Melbourne,” he said.

"But when you look at the long-term performance it's not the view that really holds up.

"You hear a lot about how regional areas are struggling, but the economic modelling shows over the medium term they're going to be fine.”

Local government alliance Regional Capitals Australia praised the report and RCA chair Shane Van Styn said the report showed population size was not the only economic indicator.

"This report is essentially saying cities of all sizes are dynamic - the idea that regional cities are and will continue to be a drag on our economy is clearly fanciful and fiction,” he said.

- NewsRegional