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Monday, 13 October 2008
Page: 5845

Senator FARRELL (9:55 PM) —We are always hearing or reading about the housing affordability crisis as it affects the big capital cities of Australia. Regrettably, what often gets overlooked is how the issue affects working families in the smaller regional towns, especially those in South Australia. In my home state, we have seen the benefits of the mining and exploration boom and the way it has created jobs, particularly for young people. Many mines are opening or expanding in South Australia, including Roxby Downs, Prominent Hill and many smaller mines, as demand for our minerals grows. In fact, the mining boom has been so successful in my state that an international mining survey ranked South Australia fourth best in the world for mining prospects over the last 12 months.

One of the side-effects of this boom is the impact on land and house prices in rural towns. To give just one example, the city of Port Augusta in the Upper Spencer Gulf was reported to have had a 34 per cent increase in housing costs over the last 12 months. But recently I saw firsthand how some regional towns are imaginatively trying to address the issue. Two weeks ago I was asked to open a new housing estate in Ceduna in the far west of South Australia. Ceduna is a particularly pretty seaside town at the end of the Nullarbor desert. The surrounding coastal strips are some of the most ruggedly beautiful regions of Australia, and not too far from Venus Bay, where I once saw the sun come up in 1972. It is also not far from Fowlers Bay, where Matt Flinders, when circumnavigating Australia, took shelter from a storm.

Ceduna has a population of approximately 3,500 people and has many of the problems that affect other regional towns across Australia. Its principal industries are fishing, tourism and cereal farming, although poor rains will, sadly, wipe out many of the crops this year. Like much of the west coast, where my mother’s family came from, it of course produces export quality oysters—in Murat Bay, Denial Bay and nearby Smokey Bay. While walking along the picturesque norfolk-island-pine-lined foreshore during the world-famous Oysterfest, I was struck by the great sense of excitement, almost a buzz, in the town with the prospect of being the hub for new mines like the mineral sands development of Iluka mines, less than 200 kilometres inland. The mine will mainly produce zircon, which is used in, amongst other things, radiometric dating. The $420 million new mine will bring roughly 200 new young families to the town—hence the urgent need for affordable housing.

The housing estate that I was privileged to open was called Talbot Grove. It was a response to the need in Ceduna to provide cheap and affordable, yet quality, housing. The Ceduna council has had a dream of providing cheap, affordable housing in Ceduna for the last 10 years. With the support and encouragement of the Ceduna council and the state government, Scott Rowlands and his company were able to bring this project to fruition. Builders from Phoenix Relocatables built transportable homes in Adelaide that were then brought to Ceduna and put in place on 19 blocks of land that the council provided. These top-quality finished house and land packages were sold for prices ranging from $150,000 to $170,000. The amazing feature of the new housing estate is that it averaged four houses put in place every five weeks. The newest part of Ceduna is now almost completely populated. When I opened Talbot Grove on Saturday, 4 October, 18 of the 19 houses had been purchased and a contract was near on the 19th.

Talbot Grove is an ideal example of what can happen when stakeholders work together on the important question of affordable housing. The 19 families in Ceduna that have taken advantage of this will have housing that is modern, affordable and adequate for their families’ needs. In fact, I think that this project could become a national benchmark for providing affordable housing across regional areas.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Mr Rowlands on providing housing to families in Ceduna that is much sought after. I also want to congratulate the CEO, the mayor and the council of Ceduna for having the foresight to support this project. Mayor Allan Suter, Chief Executive Officer Tony Irvine and other members of council attended the opening ceremony. The opening was well attended and many of the new residents came along to show how proud they were of their new homes. Other distinguished guests and some of the tradesmen who had helped put the houses together were also in attendance. In summary, Talbot Grove in Ceduna shows what can be done to provide affordable but quality housing in the regions.