Bad news for Townsville just keeps on coming

With the headlines talking about the imminent closure of the Yabulu Nickel Refinery and the loss of up to 800 jobs, today’s regional building approvals data from the ABS are another sorry story that Townsville could really do without.

As we noted last month (see here), the unemployment situation in Townsville has already deteriorated significantly with the Conus Trend unemployment rate standing at over 8%. Today we see further confirmation of the dramatic slowdown in the city’s economy. The ABS headline, unadjusted residential building approvals data for Oct sees just 78 approvals; the lowest monthly total since Dec 2011. Even more disturbing is the sharp falls being seen in the Conus Trend; here we see Trend approvals at just 83 in Oct with Sept revised down from 93 to 86. This is the weakest Trend approvals number since Dec 2010 and represents a decline of 44.4% in Trend since this time last year.

In the Far North things are looking a lot healthier. In Cairns (including Douglas Shire), the ABS report 135 residential approvals in Oct (although this number is heavily distorted by 56 new unit approvals in Manunda). Nevertheless, this very strong number (the highest original data since Dec 2009) sees the Conus Trend jump to 77, while Sep was revised to 70 from 54. This puts Trend approvals at their highest level since Mar 2010, and represents a 31% increase from last year. These are strong figures, but we should be aware that with the Nov data unlikely to contain such a high units approvals figure, we are almost certain to see some downward revision to the Trend series in coming months. Even allowing for that, the chart below makes clear the steady improvement that Cairns has been enjoying for the past 4 years.

In the Cassowary Coast we see unadjusted approvals at 10 for Oct which leaves the Conus Trend unchanged at 9 (with Sept also unrevised at 9). Trend Residential approvals in the CCRC region are now up 24.2 from a year ago. When we look into the SA2 breakdown for the CCRC we see that Tully (which includes Tully, Cardwell and Mission Beach areas) was, once again, the main source of approvals; 7 of the 10 approvals came from this area.



  1. Glen says:

    December 8th, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Pete, I think the taxpayer might be throwing some money at Clive one way or another. If the refinery goes into administration they will have nothing left once entitlements are paid, most of the plant is old and worthless. That would leave no funds to restore the site and secure the tailing dams to ensure they don’t fail and discharge into the ocean. When BHP threw Clive the keys in 2009 it advised it saved $150 million it had put aside to restore the site, the govt won’t want that bill. At least by putting funds in early it can dictate some outcomes and ensure a controlled process, interesting times in Townsville, it looks like the gravy train down here is running out of puff.

  2. Pete Faulkner says:

    December 9th, 2015 at 1:55 am

    Good points Glen. Certainly be very interesting to see what Pitt & Co opt to do. Either way this story has a way to run yet and will have a big impact in Townsville whatever happens. Thanks for the comment.

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