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Regional economic diversification: Who benefits and at what cost

Authors: Fiona Haslam McKenzie*, University of Western Australia, Neil Argent, University of New England, Sean Markey, Simon Fraser University , Greg Halseth, University of Northern British Columbia, Laura Ryser, University of Northern British Columbia
Topics: Resources, Australia and New Zealand, Regional Geography
Keywords: regional development, resources, agriculture, royalties, diversification
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The emergence and rapid growth of the unconventional gas industry in regional Queensland (Australia) over the last 15 years has had significant impacts at multiple levels for regions and communities. In the Surat Basin, where broadacre agriculture was the dominant industry, this new, emerging sector offered many potential opportunities for rural communities to diversify their business bases, labour force and local populations. There were high expectations of unconventional gas royalty investments flowing into local communities, bolstering regional resilience through local benefits from improved services and infrastructure, thus boosting regional economic development.
This paper will report on research undertaken to assess how and where resource royalties are distributed and for whose benefit. An evolutionary economic geography framework was used to analyse in-depth interviews conducted with local businesses, community decision-makers and government representatives in the Surat Basin regarding their experiences and understanding of how the economic landscape transformed over a relatively short period. This paper will present some of the findings concerning the varying conceptions of sustainable regional development held by the unconventional gas industry and other stakeholders, showing the gap in expectations regarding the benefits of the resources industry. The data underscores the importance of the temporal dimension when assessing the outcomes of industry diversification and how benefits are experienced and understood.

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