Regional Economic Diversification: Convergence and divergence regarding who benefits from the unconventional gas sector and at what cost

Prof. Fiona Haslam Mckenzie1, Prof Neil Argent2, Prof Sean  Markey3, Prof Greg Halseth4, Dr Laura Ryser5

1University Of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia,

2University of New England, Armidale, Australia,

3Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada,

4University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George , Canada,

5University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, Canada


The emergence and rapid growth of the unconventional gas industry in regional Queensland 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 how some did indeed converge, while others diverged, regarding their interpretations and experiences of the benefits of the resources industry.


Professor Fiona Haslam Mckenzie has a varied academic background, including a Ph.D. in political geography, researching the socio-economic impacts of the restructuring of the Australian agricultural industry. Her current focus is the socio-economic impact of the Australian staples economies.  Fiona has extensive experience in population and socio-economic change, mining and the oil and gas industries, housing, regional economic development and analysis of remote, regional and urban socio-economic indicators.  She was appointed as co-director of the Centre for Regional Development at the University of Western Australia in 2015.

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