Regional development in a resource production system: long distance commuting, population growth, and wealth redistribution in the Western Australia Goldfields

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Abstract

© 2016 Institute of Australian GeographersResource towns often exist on a knife-edge, largely depending upon global demand for their resource/s and, at the same time, playing a critical role in the development of a nation. The transition from single resource towns to diversified economies has been modelled on several occasions, but their application to other resource locales is difficult given the unique interplay of geographic, political, social, and economic factors. Nonetheless, Innis' Canadian staples theory may explain the political motivations of resource extraction and exportation, not least in relation to the Western Australia Goldfields. This paper seeks to explore the theory's potential in this context by examining the implications of high labour mobility. It employs a two-step process using, first, a social network analysis to map the entire Australian labour commuting network and, second, a regression analysis of commuting, regional wealth, and population size against population change. While the Goldfields historically grew in line with processes described by Innis' theory, contemporary high labour mobility has created a variegated landscape of different development dynamics and trajectories. This finding carries implications for network patterns of residence and work. Labour acts to extend the distribution of wealth by sending incomes to the metropolitan core and to amenity-rich regional towns across the State and nation. In such light, regional development scholars must view the resource town in its broader urban system of distinct but interlocked, and sometimes overlapping, activity nodes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-432
JournalGeographical Research
Volume54
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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