Gritty Gladstone a suc­cess story with­out tick­ets

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Prime Space - TERRY RY­DER HOTSPOT­TING

GLADSTONE per­son­i­fied is a bloke in a black sin­glet, rear cleav­age pok­ing out the top of his shorts, a bar­be­cue fork in one hand and a beer in the other, at the end of a hard day’s phys­i­cal labour, think­ing about the week­end’s fish­ing trip.

He’s the poor cousin who the rich rel­a­tives down south don’t like to talk about, but who they are happy to call upon when some­thing en­tails a bit of grunt, a few blis­ters, some dirt un­der the fin­ger­nails and most likely a com­plaint from the tree- hug­gers down the road.

Gladstone’s the guy who rolls up his sleeves and does Bris­bane’s dirty work. And he doesn’t mind be­cause he’s do­ing OK. For one thing, the real es­tate he owns is ris­ing rapidly.

Bernard Salt de­scribed Gladstone best when he said: ‘‘ Just as Syd­ney needs a Wol­lon­gong and Melbourne needs a Gee­long, so Bris­bane needs a Gladstone.

‘‘ It needs an in­dus­trial mus­cle man. You can’t have the en­tire state be­ing five- star re­sorts. Some­one has to do the gritty stuff and Gladstone is it — by de­fault, no one else wants it.’’

My pre­vi­ous Hotspot­ting col­umn was on Townsville, which I see as a great case study in hotspot cre­ation.

Townsville is a dif­fer­ent kind of bloke to Gladstone. Townsville came from work­ing class stock, but went into busi­ness as a self- em­ployed con­trac­tor, made it rich and now has a mul­ti­fac­eted busi­ness em­pire with in­ter­ests in man­u­fac­tur­ing, min­ing, tourism and pro­vid­ing sup­port ser­vices to the mil­i­tary.

Old- money peo­ple still look at him side­ways, but they have a kind of grudg­ing ad­mi­ra­tion for his ini­tia­tive and suc­cess.

I ended my dis­cus­sion of Townsville by sug­gest­ing that the next ‘‘ lo­cal boy made good’’ story is likely to be Gladstone.

The thing is, Gladstone al­ready is a suc­cess story, but not too many peo­ple re­alise it be­cause he doesn’t brag about it and he’ll al­ways be an or­di­nary bloke, no mat­ter how much money he makes.

And while he’s a tough nut, he also has a softer side. He spends his work­ing week in fac­to­ries that belch black smoke, but his leisure time of­ten in­volves sandy beaches, post­card coral reefs and pic­nics with the wife and kids in the best re­gional botanic gar­dens in Queens­land.

It re­ally gets up his nose that peo­ple don’t see his finer qual­i­ties.

Any­way, who cares? He’s rolling in money, has a great lifestyle and his fu­ture prospects sug­gest he won’t have to worry about his re­tire­ment.

Putting aside the cute analo­gies, Gladstone shapes up as a strong long- term in­vest­ment prospect. There is around $ 20 bil­lion in large projects ear­marked for the re­gion. The cen­tre is emerg­ing as an eco­nomic en­gine room and its prop­erty mar­ket will ben­e­fit be­cause the jobs cre­ated will place pres­sure on avail­able res­i­den­tial ac­com­mo­da­tion.

In 2006, while most mar­kets around Queens­land ex­pe­ri­enced sin­gle- digit growth in res­i­den­tial val­ues, most of the key sub­urbs and lo­cal­i­ties around Gladstone de­liv­ered price growth above 15 per cent. Some did bet­ter than 20 per cent.

Still, most sec­tions of the city re­main af­ford­able, with me­dian house prices in the $ 200,000 range.

The cap­i­tal growth is likely to con­tinue, given the forth­com­ing new de­mand for hous­ing.

Queens­land’s De­part­ment of State De­vel­op­ment, Trade and In­no­va­tion says of Gladstone: ‘‘ If all the pro­posed projects pro­ceed, they will cre­ate 9000 jobs at the peak of the con­struc­tion phase and count­less busi­ness and flow- on op­por­tu­ni­ties.’’

Salt says Gladstone is evolv­ing into Queens- land’s in­dus­trial pow­er­house. ‘‘ Al­though a coastal city, it is very much a worker town with an econ­omy based on power sta­tions, alu­minium re­finer­ies and coal from the Bowen Basin.’’

Pro­jected pop­u­la­tion growth fig­ures place Gladstone high on a na­tional list of boom growth re­gions.

Salt nom­i­nated Gladstone as No. 4 in his Aus­tralia on the Move re­port, which iden­ti­fies growth ar­eas around the na­tion.

The re­port, which stud­ied the hous­ing needs of the 41 largest ur­ban cen­tres of Aus­tralia un­til 2031, pre­dicts Gladstone will be one of four cen­tres that will dou­ble its pop­u­la­tion and hous­ing stock in that time.

Fac­tors that place Gladstone cat­e­gory in­clude: ■ Aus­tralia’s largest alu­minium smelter. ■ The largest ce­ment kiln in Aus­tralia. ■ One of the world’s largest pro­duc­ers of sodium cyanide, with a plant in Gladstone which is tar­geted for a ma­jor ex­pan­sion. ■ Queens­land’s largest lime­stone mine op­er­a­tion. ■ The state’s largest multi- cargo port ( and the na­tion’s fifth largest port). ■ Queens­land’s largest power sta­tion. ■ ( Soon) the world’s largest coal- ex­port­ing ter­mi­nal.

A ma­jor driver for Gladstone has been the con­struc­tion of Co­ma­lco’s new $ 1.5 bil­lion alu­mina re­fin­ery, which il­lus­trates the ef­fect of ma­jor in­dus­trial projects on res­i­den­tial prop­erty.

The re­fin­ery was of­fi­cially opened in April 2005.

Dur­ing its con­struc­tion, which cre­ated 2150 jobs, Gladstone went from high res­i­den­tial va­can­cies to vir­tu­ally zero va­can­cies.

Take a look at the fol­low­ing list of big projects and imag­ine the ef­fect on the lo­cal hous­ing mar­ket:

The $ 3 bil­lion Al­doga alu­minium smelter, which will em­ploy a con­struc­tion work­force of 2250 over three years plus 900 per­ma­nent jobs when op­er­a­tional.

A $ 3.7 bil­lion nickel re­fin­ery, for which stage one is ex­pected to cre­ate 1200 jobs dur­ing con­struc­tion and 400 when fully op­er­a­tional.

The $ 2 bil­lion Wig­gins Is­land coal ter­mi­nal and as­so­ci­ated rail in­fra­struc­ture, which will make Gladstone the world’s largest coal ex­port fa­cil­ity.

Stage one is ex­pected to cre­ate 500 con­struc­tion jobs for 30 months, plus 125 per­ma­nent jobs once op­er­a­tional. ■ The $ 160 mil­lion recla­ma­tion of 153ha at Port Cur­tis by the Cen­tral Queens­land Port Author­ity. ■ The $ 800 mil­lion ex­pan­sion of the RG Tanna coal ter­mi­nal, which is cre­at­ing 250 con­struc­tion jobs plus 80 per­ma­nent jobs once op­er­a­tional. ■ A liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas plant by coal seam gas pro­ducer Ar­row En­ergy ( the first stage is likely to cost over $ 400 mil­lion, with a sim­i­lar out­lay on a sec­ond stage. ■ In­vest­ment group Bab­cock & Brown an­nounced in Jan­uary it was con­duct­ing a pre­lim­i­nary anal­y­sis on a $ 1 bil­lion cok­ing coal and power plant. ■ A $ 4.3 bil­lion ex­pan­sion of the Yar­wun alu­mina re­fin­ery by Rio Tinto, cre­at­ing 2100 jobs dur­ing con­struc­tion and 200 per­ma­nent jobs af­ter com­ple­tion.

A num­ber of new min­ing ven­tures hap­pen­ing within 180km of Gladstone, in­clud­ing a $ 1.1 bil­lion ex­pan­sion of An­glo

in

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spe­cial Coal’s Daw­son project, cre­at­ing 700 jobs in con­struc­tion and 200 once op­er­a­tional, as well as Macarthur Coal’s Monto coal mine and Aquila Re­sources’ Belvedere de­vel­op­ment.

In ad­di­tion, Gladstone may be cho­sen as the site for a $ 3 bil­lion re­fin­ery as­so­ci­ated with the min­ing of baux­ite at Au­rukun in far north Queens­land by Chi­nese en­tity Chalco.

Gladstone is one of three lo­ca­tions short­listed for the fa­cil­ity.

There is also the 440km gas pipe­line from min­ing town Mo­ran­bah to Gladstone at a cost of $ 220 mil­lion, pro­vid­ing 300 con­struc­tion jobs, and the $ 1 bil­lion ‘‘ miss­ing link’’ rail line from the coal- rich Su­rat Basin to Gladstone ( which re­ceived fund­ing in the re­cent state bud­get).

Against all that heavy in­dus­try, it’s easy to for­get Gladstone is a coastal city with a spec­tac­u­lar har­bour. It has some fine beaches and there are spec­tac­u­lar Bar­rier Reef is­lands off its coast.

Gladstone is a ma­jor ac­cess point for Great Bar­rier Reef is­lands such as Heron Is­land, re­garded as one of the best scuba div­ing lo­ca­tions in Aus­tralia, and Lady Mus­grave Is­land. Ty­ron, Ersk­ine and Mast­head Is­lands are im­por­tant nest­ing grounds for log­ger­head tur­tles.

Tan­num Sands has good white sand beaches while just off­shore, and linked by bridge, is Boyne Is­land, with its ‘‘ beau­ti­ful fore­shore parks’’. The area is pop­u­lar for fish­ing, boat­ing and wa­ter ski­ing.

Gladstone has seen a sub­stan­tial in­creases in prop­erty val­ues since 2000, like ev­ery­where else in Queens­land, but has not had the same level of growth as some other cen­tres.

Ac­cord­ing to Real Es­tate In­sti­tute of Queens­land fig­ures, Gladstone’s me­dian house price rose 90 per cent in the five years to 2005.

Not a bad ef­fort, but dwarfed by 122 per cent in Mackay, 121 per cent in the Whit­sun­days, 120 per cent in Townsville and 150 per cent in Her­vey Bay.

But in 2006 catch­ing up.

Many ar­eas of Gladstone showed strong price growth. Gladstone City, South Gladstone, New Auck­land, Boyne Is­land, Glen Eden, Tan­num Sands and Cal­liope all ex­pe­ri­enced price rises of be­tween 15 and 20 per cent.

Some ar­eas showed growth above 20 per cent, in­clud­ing Kin Kora and West Gladstone.

But most of th­ese ar­eas still have me­dian house prices be­tween $ 230,000 and $ 270,000 — the ex­cep­tions be­ing Boyne Is­land ($ 300,000) and Tan­num Sands ($ 380,000).

Gladstone’s over­all prospects are sum­marised by this ref­er­ence in a re­cent edi­tion of The Month in Re­view by val­uer Her­ron Todd White: ‘‘ The res­i­den­tial mar­ket con­tin­ues to strengthen.

‘‘ Key driv­ers in­clude 30- year- low un­em­ploy­ment rates, high in­come lev­els and pos­i­tive in­vestor sen­ti­ment as a re­sult of over $ 20 bil­lion worth of projects un­der con­struc­tion, re­cently com­pleted or un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the re­gion.’’

Gladstone

showed

signs

of

Sun­shine state: Even the sun­set smiles on Gladstone, ear­marked as a hotspot

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