Central Highlands Workforce Development and Accommodation Strategy Summary

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April 2024

This report has been prepared by

With continued and sustained challenges facing the region, particularly workforce retention and attraction, coupled with ongoing housing issues, the time is right to look anew.

The Central Highlands Workforce Development and Accommodation Strategy is a true action plan that focuses on outcomes that will address both current and emerging issues in the region.


The strategy is centered on four focus areas: workforce, accommodation, childcare, and lifestyle. Each focus area is interconnected and geared towards securing, accommodating, and aiding the workforce, while also protecting local asset values.

THE Problem

Attracting new talent to the region in a competitive job market, amidst a tight housing market, minimal rental availability, and a known childcare shortage, presents significant challenges.

• Over the past decade, Emerald has experienced population growth (1.9%) exceeding the Queensland average (1.5%). This growth is compounded by a 7.4% increase in the non-resident population over the past 12 months.

• Population growth has placed pressure on all accommodation options, from traditional residential housing and rentals to motels and workforce camps. The pressure varies across towns, with Emerald being the most affected, followed by Blackwater, Capella, and Springsure.

• Unemployment in the region is low, at 2.2% in Emerald and 4.3% in the rest of the Central Highlands.

• Waitlists for early childhood education and care are long, and many centres are not operating at their licensed capacity due to staffing issues.

• Properties are available for sale across the region and are affordable compared to income (below 30%). However, the availability of rental properties is much lower, with the current vacancy rate sitting between 0.5% - 1.2%, compared to a healthy rate of 2.5%.

• New construction has slowed across commercial, retail, and residential sectors due to high costs ($2,200m2 - $4,000m2). Consequent constraints in supply, finance, and valuation are exacerbating the accommodation shortage.




ACTION 1 Establish Workforce and Accommodation Collective

Central Highlands Development Corporation (CHDC) to establish the Workforce and Accommodation Collective (WAC) to deliver and monitor the agreed priorities and to continue driving the broader recommended actions. Membership will include members of the Central Highlands Resources Roundtable, as well as other businesses and institutions. The State Government will also be invited to participate. The WAC will meet monthly and communicate outcomes publicly.

Timeframe The first meeting of the group will be held in May 2024.

ACTION 3 Future Skills Facilitator

CHDC has identified a funding source to create a new fulltime equivalent position for a Future Skills Facilitator. The position will be tasked with coordinating and collaborating between education systems, government, and industry sectors across the region. Initially, the role will review current Regional Training Organisations and certification offerings for the region, with a focus on skills shortages such as early childhood and construction. Additionally, the role will also engage directly with the Central Highlands Vocational Education and Training (CH VET) Network and Indigenous groups to ensure the region is gaining access to the right programs and schools to industry pathways.

Timeframe Funding proposal to be finalised and application sought by June 2024.

ACTION 2 Property Review

CHDC to partner with major property portfolio holders (both public and private sector) to actively review housing stock and seek opportunities to release surplus supply and encourage redevelopment and/or commitment to new development. The initial priority will be on available stock that could be used to house key workers such as childcare, education and healthcare workers in Blackwater.

Timeframe Review to commence 1 April 2024. Opportunities to support Blackwater to be identified by 30 May 2024.

ACTION 4 Build 12 in 12

CHDC to develop and launch an Expression of Interest (EOI) from developers and builders to support the 12 in 12 campaign, aiming to have at least 12 new builds across the region within 12 months. CHDC will collaborate with key property owners, government agencies, and companies to develop additional incentives that may support the new builds, such as traineeships, materials, and additional grants for first home buyers. Land (as identified in Action 2) would be located across the region and nominated by both government and the private sector.

Timeframe EOI to launch by 1 May 2024.


The WAC signifies a pivotal step towards addressing crucial issues surrounding workforce and accommodation within the region, especially in our key Emerald and Blackwater communities.

Facilitated by CHDC, the WAC will be responsible for and accountable to the implementation of the strategy, driving, reporting, and monitoring actions as identified. The success of the strategy will squarely rest on the realisation of these actions, and this cannot rest with any single stakeholder. The WAC will convene monthly, with each

meeting documented and results communicated through the CHDC website.

With a collaborative approach at its core, the WAC will draw expertise and representation from various stakeholders. Members will include representatives from established groups such as the Central Highlands Resources Roundtable, CH VET Network, major employers, Central Highlands Regional Council (CHRC), and importantly, community champions, including at least one for Emerald and Blackwater.

The WAC will enact meaningful change through the identified actions to enhance the well-being of all the communities and workplaces across the region.

Meetings will be held monthly and will rotate between Emerald and Blackwater. The first meeting of the WAC will be held in May 2024.


ACTION 5 Childcare Alliance

CHDC to engage with and develop a business case to expand the Childcare Leadership Alliance (CLA) into the Central Highlands, with a focus on Blackwater as the first priority area. The CLA will be formally invited to address the WAC at its first meeting in June 2024. The WAC, in collaboration with the CLA, will investigate whether additional centres are needed, determine where and how they should be developed.

Timeframe CLA discussions to commence by 1 June 2024. Business case to be finalised by 1 September 2024.

ACTION 6 Capital Investment

Capital investment, such as CHRC capital budget and trunk infrastructure delivery, to be directed to areas of highest need. Initial investment should be directed to significant park upgrades in Blackwater (Dempsey Park), establishing a new park in Emerald (Devonport Street), and engaging directly with the owner of the Blackwater Town Centre to facilitate its upgrade and expansion of operating hours through the State Government to enable Sunday trade for the supermarket.

Timeframe CHRC to consider appropriate inclusions in the upcoming budget by June 2024. Meeting with the Blackwater Town Centre owner to be held by 30 June 2024.

ACTION 7 Investment Incentives

CHDC to review and consolidate all known current incentives and outline suggested new incentives and/ or amended policy to support investment in region. The review should include CHRC’s Regional Economic Development Incentives, as well as rates on non-principal place of residence and other potential opportunities for support directly from major employers or suppliers.

Timeframe Review to be completed by 30 May 2024.

ACTION 8 Fairer Airfares

CHDC to develop a position paper to work directly with the airlines to find solutions for reducing the cost of airfares and expanding regional subsidy schemes for residents. Monitoring of the new fleet and its impact on costs and availability of flights will also be undertaken, with any improvements appropriately communicated to the community.

Timeframe The position paper to be finalised by 30 June 2024, and a roundtable held through WAC in July 2024.

ACTION 9 Talent Attraction

Ensure that the Talent Attraction Campaign takes into consideration the finding of this strategy and is timed appropriately. Stage 1 will focus on placing the region on the radar, followed by Stage 2 targeting identified areas of need.

Timeframe Ongoing.

ACTION 10 Small Business Friendly

CHDC, together with CHRC, to engage with local small businesses to discuss the benefits of the CHRC joining the Queensland Government’s Small Business Friendly Program. Based on general agreement from local businesses regarding the program’s benefits, CHRC will prepare and lodge the application to join and commit to the program charter.

Timeframe Engagement with Small to Medium Enterprises by 30 May 2024, and application prepared for briefing to CHRC by 30 June 2024.


ACTION 11 Regional Build-to-Rent

Potential land identified in Action 2, as well as EOIs from Action 3, to be used to develop a Regional Build-to-Rent (BTR) Scheme. Land to be identified across the region, and firm proposals will be sought from EOI respondents. A pilot BTR scheme will be confirmed from a feasibility perspective, and if viable, the scheme will be delivered in region in 2025.

Timeframe Proposals to EOI respondents to be sought by 30 August 2024. The first pilot BTR, if feasible, to be identified and delivered by 1 March 2025.

ACTION 14 Fit-for-Purpose Accommodation

Through the WAC, coordinate and acknowledge the need for fit-for-purpose accommodation across the region. Identify appropriate sites for additional villagestyle accommodation in the right locations across the region, including expanding existing in-town locations such as Pritchard Road, Emerald. Facilitate the necessary community conversations and engagement to balance the need for different forms of accommodation.

Timeframe Appropriate sites to be identified by 30 September 2024.

ACTION 12 Shutdown Coordination

CHDC, with support from the Central Highlands Resources Roundtable, to develop a Shutdown Coordination Calendar. The calendar will be initially developed as a soft copy before seeking proposals from software developers to pilot a platform-based Bowen Basin Mines Calendar.

Timeframe Soft copy of the calendar to be completed by 30 July 2024. Proposals to be sought by 30 September 2024, and a decision to be made on next steps by 1 December 2024.

ACTION 13 Accommodation Management

CHDC to seek proposals from software developers to develop a proof-in-concept for real-time occupancy tracking of mining accommodation across the region. Understanding real-time vacancy would significantly improve efficiency and availability, potentially freeing up other in-demand accommodations such as motels and hotels. If the proof-in-concept is viable, funding will be sourced to further develop the project.

Timeframe Proposals to be sought by 30 October 2024. Proof-in-concept to be completed by 15 December 2024.

ACTION 15 Move to More Campaign

As members of the Regional Activators Alliance - Regional Australia Institute, CHDC will ensure that the region is represented in the Move to More campaign. CHDC to understand the investment requirements and ensure appropriate budgeting to cover costs if benefits are identified.

Timeframe 1 December 2024.

ACTION 16 Community Support

CHDC, together with CHRC, to coordinate and better promote access to available funding opportunities for community groups across the region. They will encourage major employers to partner with and sponsor community activities and events. A centralised webpage will be created on CHDC’s website to direct community members to these opportunities, such as Grant Finder, company community partnership schemes, and CHRC sponsorship opportunities.

Timeframe The centralised webpage to be published by 1 February 2025.

Spotlight BUILD 12 IN 12


With the goal of constructing 12 new homes within a span of 12 months, this campaign is set to shift the region’s approach to housing development. By leveraging innovative solutions to address the cost of housing, 12 in 12 aims to make significant strides towards alleviating the housing crisis while promoting diversity in construction methods.

Expressions of interest will be sought from a wide spectrum of builders, ranging from those employing traditional building methods to those utilising cutting-edge modern construction techniques. This inclusive approach ensures that the campaign embraces diversity in building practices while encouraging creativity and innovation in the construction industry.

Local builders will be incentivised to participate, with additional weighting provided to ensure the protection of local assets. Growth of local employment by other builders will also be seen favourably to help drive down the cost of construction.

Cost is the main barrier to new builds, and therefore a key component of the campaign will be the donation of vacant land (valued at its market rate) as well as other potential bonuses. Of particular note is the provision of incentives for builders who commit to constructing homes for key workers at a discounted rate, thereby addressing the critical need for affordable housing for essential members of the community.

At its core, the 12 in 12 campaign represents a collaborative effort bringing together builders, developers, and community stakeholders to pave the way towards a more sustainable and inclusive housing landscape in the Central Highlands. Through the implementation of innovative solutions and the provision of targeted incentives, the campaign aims to not only build new homes faster but also foster a sense of community and opportunity for all residentsboth existing and aspiring.

Expressions of Interest for the 12 in 12 campaign to launch by 1 May 2024.

Read the full Central Highlands Workforce Development and Accommodation Strategy at chdc.com.au

• Current state of the region, including population growth, workforce composition, industry dynamics, and housing market trends.

• Identification of challenges faced by the workforce, accommodation, childcare, and lifestyle focus areas.

• On-ground insights from local employers, industry, Council, and the community.

• Spotlight on key actions, exploring solutions in greater detail.

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W chdc.com.au Front cover image courtesy of Dynamic Crane Hire and taken by That Emerald Photographer.

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