The effects of the mining boom are being felt throughout the Mid-Western Region, according to tourism, business, wine industry, farming and community services identities who took part in a panel at “Mudgee Mining: The wHole Story” on Tuesday.
NSW Farmers Association board member David Clarke, Mudgee Regional Tourism Inc (MRTI) chairman Rob Duffy, Ed Turner and Leonie Cridland from the Mudgee Business Association (MBA), winemaker Trina Karstrom and Leza Weber of Barnardos took part in the final session of the rally, held as an alternative to the Mudgee Mining conference at Parklands.
Ms Weber said mining had created an escalating housing crisis and was also affecting families with parents working long hours on shifts.
“Some mothers are basically now single parents, who have a partner who is either not there or is sleeping, while she tiptoes around keeping the children quiet,” she said.
Ms Weber said with the average rent in Mudgee now around $400, Barnardos has received requests for assistance from families where both parents are working who are unable to find housing.
“If a two-income family is unable to secure and maintain housing, how will a single parent or someone on Centrelink benefits afford housing?” she asked.
Some families who moved to Mudgee for mining jobs left because of high rents and insufficient services such as childcare, she said.
Mrs Kartstrom and Mr Clarke said winemakers and farmers were unable to compete with the wages offered by mines.
“The immediate effect [of the mining boom] is a lack of personnel,” Ms Karstrom said. “The mines suck up what talent we have.”
Ms Karstrom expressed concern that expansion of mines might turn visitors away from Mudgee.
“Nobody goes to Cessnock,” she said. “God forbid Mudgee becomes that way.”
Mr Clarke said he could see a positive side if a balance could be found between mines and other industries through long-term planning.
“Without a long-term vision, what we’ll end up with is a brown’s cow mishmash,” he said.
Mr Clarke said agriculture was unable to compete with mine wages, with the result that the best and brightest in the district were driving coal trucks.
He warned many mine workers were “burning the candle at both ends”, trying to run mines or businesses on their days off.
Mine hours were also preventing people from taking part in community activities, he said.
“We need more volunteers, but they are not there,” he said.
Mr Turner said the mining industry had brought money to the town and was also creating a legacy of infrastructure such as Glen Willow Sporting Complex, which was bringing sports tourism to the area.
But he added many businesses were facing increasing commercial rents, as businesses bid up rates for premises.
“A lot of businesses are doing well in town, but not everyone is getting a kicker,” he said.
Mr Turner he said believed the elements that make Mudgee what it is and the passion of its people were strong enough to ensure that it does not go down the path of Maitland and Cessnock.