All of us living in the Cairns region are aware of the lack of real work available in the construction industry right now and the chaos that some families are going through due to the closing up of several large construction companies in the region.
The work available along the Cassowary Coast is great but is not putting any dent in the bills for most people in a precarious position. Once the travel costs of getting to the Yasi affected areas are accounted for, and the rate of pay being the same as that of a Council labourer/gardener (around $42'000) there is little left over for mortgage bills AND food AND utilities AND insurances. This has also left many families in the undesirable position of having a parent work quite a distance away and in many cases, staying at the site overnight, putting strain on relationships.
A huge chunk of those working in the area are well behind in payments on loans already, due to being owed small fortunes by liquidated companies. This money will more than likely never been seen and for those owed thousands it will take a long while before they are no longer in danger of losing everything they have left.
The BSA has left these small business owners and contractors in the lurch as they have not responded to many calls for help and at no time did they step in and suspend trade or contact companies who owed the money on behalf of those making complaints. I am well aware that complaints have been made as I have letters reporting those facts from some members of our community who are at breaking point. Complaints were filed as far away as December last year and none were followed up, not even a simple reply to state the complaints were received.
One letter writer has given their permission to pass their story on but asked to remain anonymous and I will respect that request, while printing just a portion of what was in the letter.
'I have just been off the phone to our solicitor, who has told me that we are just one of many small to medium businesses ( Construction ) in Cairns that are owed money. He said that one of his drawers where filled with claimants. And they are one of many law firms with the same situation.'
'The CRC is too late with their lifeline. Not only is there bugger all work out there, but we are like dogs fighting for scraps, with many undercutting each other to get by, but when we do work, we are not getting paid. So many families are being ripped apart, with husbands having to travel for work. I really don't know if we will still be around in a few more months. The situation that we are currently in has pushed us to the wall.'
In another letter the family suggested that the situation was so bad we will soon have construction workers who are forced to squat in houses they are building as the banks will have taken their own homes.
It seems that while we spend our time feeling bad that another company has folded and thinking it's high time we diversified, we may well have forgotten all those who are suffering as a result of those closures. The work on offer in Tully and Cardwell is keeping some of those affected afloat and the Government should be applauded for ensuring that locals got the bulk of the work available.
It won't last forever though and we need to start thinking about the next step in recovery of the industry. Large scale development has stagnated in Cairns due to repeated consultations and studies, with no results. It's time we sped that process up and got some of the projects started immediately.
In Edmonton, the Leisure Centre and the GP Super Clinic will employ some. In the city, the Entertainment Precinct will supply a big chunk of work. The building of the new highway will supply even more but starting those projects will just be the start. Having that development, in all areas of Cairns, actively begun, will increase investment in the city which will of course, bring more work. There is no confidence in the industry at present and the Council, along with the general public, need to be aware that the problems within the industry are far greater than they imagine. It's time to act.