Miners and Mayors meet

IT WAS a meeting drawn from chambers and boardrooms across the state, but after years of councils feeling trodden on by mine companies, tensions gently bubbled at the tables at a Brisbane forum on Friday.

The Mayors and Industry Leaders Forum, put on by the Queensland Resources Council and Local Government Association of Queensland, packed a room at Brisbane's Sofitel, featuring Mines Minister Andrew Cripps and QRC boss Michael Roche as keynote speakers.

Mackay Mayor Deirdre Comerford was told by State Development deputy director-general Paul Eagles either Mackay nor Isaac regions were even on the radar for the kind of regional planning slated for the Darling Downs and southern end of Central Queensland.

Likewise, Toowoomba council infrastructure manager Mike Brady was told by Mr Eagles that little could be done about developers holding back land or "land banking" in order to increase demand for sales.

But for Western Downs mayor Ray Brown - whose area includes the booming coal and gas towns of Wandoan, Tara, Dalby and Chinchilla - there was a mixture of emotions for those who had given the region its growing pains.

Mr Brown said mine and gas companies were still not properly involving communities in their planning.

On top of that, the council was copping the bill to have staff painstakingly comb through mine applications running into the thousands of pages.

"All we want is for the communication lines to be open," Cr Brown said.

"(Miners) have a huge impact, they need to be part of the community."

He said Western Downs paid $400,000 to create a "major projects team" just to deal with the planning details.

"We've done three Environmental Impact Statements this month," he said.

"Our community wants these gone through word-for-word and some are 18 volumes."

In his address, Mr Roche asked, "What if your town did not have gas or mining? Would it still be booming?"

Western Downs is stuck with crippling housing costs, failing sewerage and road infrastructure but with the knocks also came low unemployment and a vibrant string of townships.

"How do you tell someone being paid $15 an hour they need to pay more than $500 a week in rent?

"But you look up the Eastern Seaboard and some places have double-digit unemployment.

"We have 2% unemployment - I think there's a blue heeler in town that has a job.

"I have to keep an open mind for the whole community."

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