Economic assessments of the Great Australian Bight region will provide communities with a better understanding of potential impacts on the marine environment from future development.
Economic development in the Bight
The Great Australian Bight is considered a pristine marine environment by communities in the region, including the Eyre Peninsula and the west coast of South Australia.
A better understanding of the nature, structure and capacity of these communities to develop an economic model on the region is needed to identify the impacts of future development.
Extensive social and economic analysis
We conducted the first targeted socio-economic assessment of the Eyre Peninsula, and developed an economic model for the region.
We identified the range and relative importance of different industries to employment, income and the processes currently driving development.
The region's population makes up 3.5 per cent of South Australia, and is dependent on primary industries including agriculture, fishing and aquaculture.
South Australia's fishing and aquaculture industries are important to the region's economy, generating 25 per cent of Australia's seafood by value. Total gross value of production generates between $400-500 million per annum.
Community attitudes to future development
The study identified the local community having a strong attachment to the region's marine and coastal environment; and attitudes to development were largely positive, related to expected employment opportunities.
Appropriate infrastructure was identified as a constraint for development, but it was expected that future development for an oil and gas industry would improve infrastructure such as roads, rail, port facilities and airports. This would in turn increase tourism due to better access, as well as contributing to safety (due to improved roads) and better health services.
Development could result in a population increase due to more work opportunities, with higher demand for support services. It could also contribute to retaining young people who may otherwise leave.
For the social baseline study, there was community concern for the environmental consequences from development, and the effect on fisheries (both commercial and recreational) and other marine life, particularly whales.
Despite the environmental concerns raised, the study demonstrates that regional communities are largely supportive of development.