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QLD labour gaps could be filled by 457 workers

QLD labour gaps could be filled by 457 workers

Queensland's mining boom has created labour gaps in local councils and businesses, according to the mayor of Western Downs Regional Council.

Ray Brown told the ABC this morning (May 2) that the council is now weighing up its options when it comes to finding skilled workers to fill town planner roles - and may even look to foreign workers to bridge the gap.

The Surat Basin and other key mining strongholds have attracted local workers to the resources sector, which has resulted in understaffing issues across local government authorities and small businesses.

"Massive shortfalls" have been witnessed across many industries, he told the broadcaster, particularly in planning and environmental health roles, as well as the agriculture sector.

But 457 visa holders could help to bridge the gap in two ways. Skilled workers are needed in both the gas sectors and at the local government level, explained Brown.

"The 457 visa is not just for the mining sector," he told the ABC. "I understand a lot of feedlots, piggeries, forestry areas [and] timber mills are all looking at 457s too."

But the process of getting foreign workers into Australia is not as simple as welcoming willing migrant workers off planes.

Brown called the 457 application process a "huge administration nightmare", but added that it might be one solution to address continuing shortfalls in skilled planners that have been observed for the past 18 months. 

"It is not as easy as everyone thinks," he explained, adding that employers who have never looked into the 457 visa process before may be surprised at the extensive obligations associated with sponsorship.

He added that the companies profiting the most from the state's resources boom should also do their part to ensure they have their own trainees and apprentices in place to fill employment gaps from their end, rather than "poaching off our existing service industries".

Figures published by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) last month revealed a ten per cent increase in the number of 457 visa holders in Australia at the end of 2011 compared with 2010.

The DIAC revealed that British citizens continue to dominate the percentage of 457 visa holders, accounting for more than one-quarter of the 128,600 people in Australia who currently hold this visa subclass.

Other countries in the top five include India, the Philippines, Ireland and the United States.

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