Saturday, 22 March 2014

Here Today - Gone Tomorrow

Camp on the Eastern outskirts of Miles.

I've been traveling through Miles now for years, almost on a fortnightly basis.

It's interesting to review the effect the Surat basin mining boom has had on this once sleepy town.

There was a time when you could land in Miles and expect to pick up a motel room on spec. Not any more. You need to phone at least a month ahead, and you'll get a room if you're lucky.

You'll also pay a good 30% more for it than you did before the "boom".

I put "boom" in inverted commas for very good reason.

It is really an oversold myth if you're a local. Sure, if you run a motel, a service station, or a supermarket, you've probably done OK.

Funny thing is, any small business that looks like it's going to do well invariably gets bought out by a large business. The mining corporations generally buy the motels.

The effect of this is that the locals get shoved aside, literally as well as metaphorically. Local kids don't get employed on the mine sites. Most of the workers come from far away - not only other parts of Oz, but other parts of the world.

Mining rigs have taken over the centre of town. Some are so long that they block access to shops and motels when parked in the main street. If I parked across a driveway I'd be booked pretty swiftly by the local plod, but these characters seem to get away with it.

I got a bit lost between Grosmont and Wandoan the other day, so pulled into a mining camp in the middle of nowhere to ask directions. 

The problem was finding someone who spoke English. I was reminded of being lost in Vung Tau a few years ago.

The first two blokes I encountered (Chinese, perhaps) didn't. Eventually I found a red haired individual who turned out to be an Irish engineer. He spoke something resembling my mother tongue, and set me on the right track to find the Leichhardt Highway.

So what the "boom"means to the locals is the following -
All costs escalate.
People from outside town get the jobs.
People from outside town get accommodation.
People from outside town fly out at the end of their shifts and spend their money somewhere else.
People from outside town couldn't give a stuff about the local community, and despite all the money their companies spend on PR, it's obvious.
No wonder the locals call them "locusts".

The panorama shows a camp built on the edge of town.
It has to be the most visually ugly construction in Miles.

As Forest Gump could have said - Ugly is as ugly does................

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...