Population boom spells need for a growing jobs market
BALLINA Shire is growing, but with more housing and more people, jobs will be paramount.
The shire’s population was 44,208 as of June 2018 and this is expected to continue an upwards trajectory; it’s tipped to surpass 51,000 by 2036.
Ballina Shire Council received a total of 750 development applications last financial year, up from 683 in 2014-15.
The council’s director of planning and environmental health, Matt Wood, said construction was a key economic driver.
With new lots being approved at a higher rate than new dwellings (although both are on the rise), he said this should be a source of economic activity for years to come.
But a building boom isn’t the only thing to consider.
While jobs are shared across all levels of government, Mr Wood said it was vital to ensure they had the right zoning mix across the shire.
“From a land use perspective, we try to make sure we’ve got enough industrial or commercial-zoned land,” Mr Wood said.
“We have quite a few planned industrial areas at Skennars Head, at Ballina Heights, and at Kinvara (northern Cumbalum).
“There’s also still capacity in the Ballina CBD, under the planning controls, for more redevelopment to occur, so more floorspace over the years.
“The idea there is people who want to carry out commercial activity, and generate jobs, have the ability to do so.”
He said expansions of the Russellton Industrial Estate at Alstonville and the Southern Cross Industrial Estate at the airport could also help to cater to a growing hunger for jobs, while the council’s Economic Development Strategy will inform decisions that help to keep Ballina’s job market strong.
“That strategy talks about Ballina being quite welcoming to entrepreneurs, targeting particular industry like food manufacturing,” he said.
“We have the space for it and we have the interest.”
The shire’s gross regional product is currently $2.03 billion, up from $1.38 billion in 2002.
Mr Wood said this was influenced by general growth but also particular growth in the middle-age brackets.
“They’re families, they’ve got kids going to school, they’ve got jobs and money to spend,” he said.
“We have good infrastructure, we have connection to southeast Queensland, we have good tourism numbers.”
“That sets a good platform, I think for … entrepreneurial business activity.”