It Is Staggering How Much Australia’s Mining Boom Has Changed Perth And Its People – by Chris Pash (Business Insider Australia March 28, 2014)

Imagine this horror: your child has just reached dating age, and their first crush is on the son or daughter of someone you went out with in your youth, a relationship that ended disastrously.

It was once a common story in Perth, Western Australia, but less so now as the state continues to grow faster than any other in Australia, in both population and its economy.

That comfortable big-country-town feeling is fading, as fast as the red dust of the North West is being shifted to get at the valuable minerals beneath it.

The mining boom of the last decade has done many things for the state and for Australia, most notably being the economic factor that stopped Australia dipping into negative economic growth during the Global Financial Crisis. China is the biggest recipient of Australia’s exports. About half those exports are iron ore from Western Australia. Ten years ago, it was only 16%.

Back in the 1970s, about 1 million tonnes of iron ore was being shoveled from the ground each week. Now it’s about 1.5 million tonnes a day. Visitors from the east say the same things. “Great place, beautiful beaches, bloody expensive. You won’t believe what I paid for bacon and eggs. And the coffee at $5 is rubbish.”

The state is the place to be. It has the jobs and the opportunity. One in three people living in Western Australia was born overseas, the highest proportion of any area in Australia.

And if you take into account those moving to WA from other parts of Australia, it’s more like every second person was born somewhere else. In some lifts taking mining executives to their offices in the new corporate concrete and steel palaces on Perth’s main street, St Georges Terrace, local accents are hard to find.

At the last census in 2011, WA had 2.2 million people. Since then about 1,500 new people have been arriving each week, making WA the fastest growing state. A year ago it reached 2.5 million. The Committee of Perth, a local business think tank, believes the population could hit nearly 4 million by 2050.

Much has been written about CUBS (Cashed Up Bogans) of Western Australia, awash with cash from mining jobs, buying jet skis and other boy’s toys. However, buying boats, four-wheel drives and jet skis isn’t new to Western Australia. They’ve always done that and it’s linked with the desire to make best use of the natural resources: the bush and the beach, the outdoors, the fishing, swimming, diving, surfing.

What Perth is seeing is a gentle shake up of who’s grabbing the money, who’s getting wealthy. The latest research shows humble tradies (the electricians and welders and builders), those who haven’t inherited wealth, benefiting. They’re growing their wealth fast. And, of course, those who had wealth, are doing as well as they usually do. Some on more fixed incomes aren’t doing that well because, as wages have risen, prices have gone up. Perth is now officially the most expensive state capital to rent a house.

These stories show how the mining boom has changed the state and its people.

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