6 December, 2021
Oakey’s not dead yet
With New Acland Mine closing on Friday - a day most Oakey region residents have dreaded for the last decade - and most employees facing redundancy, local business owners are urging residents to look to the future and keep positive about the economic and social prospects of the township while waiting for an outcome on the recent Land Court proceedings.
New Hope Group announced the end of mining at New Acland on Friday seeing further redundancies at the local plant, other than 20 people who will continue care and maintenance duties at the site.
The closure is the culmination of over a decade of legal and bureaucratic obstacles, wins and losses which has created an economic roller coaster for Oakey.
Accepting the current fate of the project, several local business owners who have weathered these ups and downs, have said that the closure does not have to mean the end of Oakey’s economic prosperity.
Oakey Electrical’s Andrew Langton said the township has survived many hits from drought, flooding, amalgamation PFAS contamination and, most recently, the COVID pandemic.
He said in all those cases local businesses and families have been forced to make changes and pivot to suit the new environment.
Mr Langton said with a Land Court decision months away, Oakey has no choice but to move forward.
“Oakey is a very resilient town and has proved it time and time again,” he said.
“This has made us look at how we do business and how we can stay relevant into the future.”
Mr Langton said Oakey Electrical has made several changes to suit the changing environment from introducing an online store, click and collect and more product choices.
He said these changes have paid dividends for the business, which is employing more local people as a result.
“We have staff now that just handle our online orders. We now have our products delivered to people across the country,” he said.
“We can’t rely on something, whether it be New Acland Mine or something else for our future. We had to look at our business and make it relevant into the future.”
NEW HOPE GROUP KEEPS POSITIVE
Despite the closure on Friday, New Hope Group has told local residents that it hasn’t given up on Stage 3.
With the most recent Land Court hearing closing last week, a decision is not expected until early next year.
New Hope Group CEO Reinhold Schmidt (right) said the company is “committed” to moving forward with Stage 3.
“New Hope is committed to securing the remaining approvals required for Stage 3, which would enable a restart of operations and employment opportunities for hundreds of local workers, as well economic opportunities for the region more broadly,” he said.
“I would like to thank the wider Darling Downs community for its steadfast support, particularly local community leaders, sporting groups and landholders who have been vocal and proud advocates of Stage 3 and the benefits it will bring to the region.
“Twenty employees will be responsible for care and maintenance at New Acland until the remaining approvals process is finalised.
“I am proud to say our departing employees leave as highly skilled professionals.
“Over the past two years they have undergone additional training, been awarded nationally accredited skills certification, received resume and interview coaching and had their pre-employment medical examinations updated, all in a bid to make each person more employable.”