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Christmas Island economy would collapse witho -

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DAVID MARK: A report has found the Christmas Island economy would collapse without the presence of asylum seekers.

It's the first comprehensive assessment of the impact the detention centre has had on the island.

Caitlyn Gribbin reports.

CAITLYN GRIBBIN: Christmas Island has been firmly at the centre of one of Australia's biggest political debates in recent times.

Its detention centre has been housing asylum seekers since 2001. The Federal Government took possession of it in 2008.

Now, a report has been released examining the centre's effect on the Christmas Island economy.

For some residents, it's just confirming the worst.

GORDON THOMSON: It's picked the issues quite well but all I can say is things are a lot worse since that report was written.

CAITLYN GRIBBIN: Gordon Thomson is the Christmas Island Shire president.

The report was commissioned by the Department of Regional Australia and the research was conducted in 2011.

It found the Christmas Island economy would collapse without asylum seekers, but residents were upset by a rapid increase in the cost of living.

John Richardson was a member of the group that pushed for the study.

JOHN RICHARDSON: Nobody had any real idea of exactly what the impact on the refugees on the island were. Certainly there were a lot of people saying lots of things, but they were pretty hard to quantify and to validate.

So from what we've seen in this report, it certainly quantified it very well and either put to sleep or confirmed what people are saying.

CAITLYN GRIBBIN: The island's president Gordon Thomson is pleased the report has brought the cost of living issue to light.

GORDON THOMSON: A lettuce can cost you $11, $12, $13, and a tomato will cost you $2.50 at least, and I buy them every week so I know.

CAITLYN GRIBBIN: That's normal, is it?

GORDON THOMSON: Yes. Now rents went up you know. Somebody paying $150 a week for a one bedroom donga unit went up to $300 in one hit.

CAITLYN GRIBBIN: In the report, the economic contribution of the centre was highlighted.

EXCERPT OF REPORT: The detention centre is estimated to directly contribute $75 million per year to the gross turnover and $30 million per year to the gross regional product.

Significant employment opportunities, around 452 jobs, created as a direct result of the detention centre activities. A total of 700 jobs were created based on the direct, indirect, and induced effect of the detention centre on Christmas Island.

CAITLYN GRIBBIN: But the negatives were also clear.

The report found that detention centre staff were more highly paid than island residents, which is causing friction.

It also pointed out a downturn in tourism, which John Richardson says is evident.

JOHN RICHARDSON: Certainly we've had a significant number of feedback from potential visitors who have simply said to us, "look, we're not coming there while there's a detention centre here", which is a big pity.

CAITLYN GRIBBIN: How much has tourism declined compared to before the detention centre was on the island?

JOHN RICHARDSON: Look, that's pretty hard to quantify. However, we have had a number of people from Europe and from the States state quite clearly that they're not coming here while the detention centre is in operation.

CAITLYN GRIBBIN: Christmas Island Shire president Gordon Thomson says there aren't enough beds for tourists anyway.

GORDON THOMSON: The two major hotel facilities are full of all the workers who are brought here to work at the detention centre. The tourism industry is almost non-existent.

CAITLYN GRIBBIN: Can the shire make changes to improve conditions on Christmas Island?

GORDON THOMSON: If we had land, we would certainly be doing everything we could about having community housing.

Unfortunately, the Commonwealth controls all the land. It's very, very difficult. The shire is just not a wealthy organisation, so we don't have large amounts of money to invest in community housing.

CAITLYN GRIBBIN: The Christmas Island administrator could not be contacted for comment.

The report's authors say the study represents a snapshot of effects of the centre at a particular point in time. As such, recommendations for the management of those impacts are not included.

DAVID MARK: Caitlyn Gribbin.