Modelling for regional Australia: what can we learn to plan for booms and busts?
Australia has experienced significant growth in mining activity in the last two decades. Regional communities located in mining regions experience fluctuating populations, infrastructure and services demands in a cyclical pattern associated with the economic viability of local mining developments and changing global commodity prices. When market conditions are favourable, mining developments increase at various scales and rural communities are not prepared for the rapid increases in residential population, transient workforces, and precipitous demands on infrastructure. When downturns in mining occurs, communities experience significant decreases in their residential population, affecting services availability and community morale.
Regional communities are complex due to their remoteness, limited economic diversification and workforce specialisation. To-date, Australian mining region research has analysed specific social, economic or cultural impacts individually, using interviews, surveys, statistical analysis, or economic modelling. The reliability of these methods to analyse spatial and temporal variations is limited and is dependent upon analysing people or communities as collective groups, rather than individuals with their own beliefs, motivations and decisions.
This PhD research is using agent-based modelling to analyse mining communities in a spatially and temporally dynamic environment. We will introduce the use of agent-based modelling as a tool for regional planning for mining communities in regional Australia. We will discuss the results from data analyses and present the conceptual design of a simulation model using information about households, mines, and communities and mining scenarios. The results of such modelling will aid in developing policies and strategic plans to mitigate community vulnerability from global shocks and ensure long term plans for community resilience.
Kate Rampellini is a graduate from Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia, where she is currently undertaking her PhD in spatial analysis and modelling. She has worked in the Western Australian public service for over a decade, holding a variety of spatial roles in fields such as geological survey, statutory and regional planning, public transport, land administration, maritime safety and nautical charting. She has also been employed as a sessional academic and research assistant at Curtin University. As part of her PhD research, Kate is currently researching the application of agent based modelling, spatial analysis and scenario modelling as tools to analyse the impacts and processes that exist as a result of mining development in remote regions of Australia.