Handle booms or downturns, boost outcomes for women, deal with migration or displacement  

Improve social vitality, adjust to 'the new normal', ensure long-term economic benefits ...

The Toolkit & UQ team can address the challenges of rapid change.  


  • Booms and downturns  

Mining towns can experience rapid population growth or decline, as well as economic stimulation and downturns.  A drop in the price of coal, for example, can lead to significant cutbacks in the workforce - whether local or fly-in/fly-out.  What is the impact on a community (Tools 1-5), and what can be done about it (Tools 6-8)?  UQ's Toolkit approach identifies how a community’s housing, employment, and population affected one another during upswings and downturns.  It helps to reveal hidden assets to foster local investment.  Look at long-term trends in similar communities.  Identify which responses seem to work well. 

  • Economic development for women 

Figure out how women in the community have been doing compared to the average for key indicators, like employment or income (Tools 1-3).  Look at comparable communities elsewhere where women seem to fairing better (Tools 7-8).  Consider family-by-family indicators (Tool 5).  Augment statistics with input from local experts (Tool 3). 

  • Mining-induced displacement  

Generate insight on the long-term trend in a community’s economic welfare before displacement (Tools 1-3).  Conduct interviews to help characterise changes that displacement can bring (Tools 4-5).  Identify options and specify targets (Tools 6-8).  Use the ‘community profile’ as a ‘boundary object’, something for use by industry, government, and community. 

  • Project planning  

Identify the capacity of a town or region to handle planned development (Tools 1-4).  Integrate the Toolkit with social impact assessment (Tools 4-5) and social impact management planning (Tools 6-8).  

  • Water availability / allocations / trading  

Trace historical trends in a community – e.g., population, farm income.  Look at when rainfall, surface water allocations and trading, or changes in groundwater use (Tools 1-3) seemed to make a difference.  Interview local experts to help identify cause-effect relationships (Tools 4-5).   Have stakeholder meetings to gain insight on the data and share findings (Tools 4-7). 

  • Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM)  

Create an economic profile of a community (Tools 1-3).  Distinguish situations that contribute to persistence of poverty in ASM (Tools 4-5).  Compare a range of communities where ASM occurs to see which ones fare best (Tools 7-8).  Share findings with organisations and agencies that can make a difference (Tools 5-8). 

  • Migration into an area / out of an area  

Identify social and economic conditions in a community that seem to drive migration inward or outward (Tools 1-4, 6-7).  Profile communities and regions where high levels of migration occur and interview local experts (Tools 3-5).  Look at the consequences in different types of communities of various responses / strategies (Tools 7-8) to handle migration. 

  • Protected areas & 'No Go' zones  

Compare social and economic trends in nearby communities before and after a protected area has been established (Tools 1-3, 5).  Identify what factors seem to make the greatest different in community outcomes (Tools 4 & 8).  Use the town profile charts as common ground for community planning (Tools 6-8). 

  • Health impacts  

Consider historical trends in the socioeconomic status of sectors of an affected community (Tools 1-3).  Look at links between social and economic factors, external influences (such as building a mine), and health outcomes - in light of published studies (Tools 4-5).  Provide the data found to guide responses by industry and government (Tools 4-8). 

  • Certification schemes    

Consult key stakeholders to identify their perceptions and core parameters that define an effective corporate social responsibility approach and effective performance by an industry player (Tool 1).  Track outcomes - i.e., effects of changes in sample communities, markets, impacts, or practices (Tools 2-5).  To optimise the desired outcomes and stimulate continuous improvement, compare the effects of various strategies used by industry players (Tools 6-8).  

  • Linked social-environmental impacts  

Assess linked social-environmental impacts by specifying indicators of ecosystem health, industry viability, and community wellbeing that are agreed on by scientists, environmental groups, local residents and planners, and industry (Tools 1-3).  Identify where environmental stresses occur and where social and economic factors for the community or industry most need attention (Tools 4-5).  Negotiate about ways to avoid negative effects, mitigate impacts, and provide offsets (Tools 6-8).  

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Who is the toolkit for?

People making plans / developing responses - This toolkit is for use by local and state governments, community organisations and local businesses, resource companies, and others. It is for people who want to organise their plans and efforts in the context of historical trends and aspirations of a community or region.  It enables you to take advantage of baseline/'trend-line' information and regional profiles that our team can produce for you.  You and your project's stakeholders can then interrogate the data, and update it periodically.    

What does it do?

Trends & possibilities - The toolkit enables tracking and presenting historical trends, such as house prices, population, and unemployment.  It provides a big picture view and enables identifying all important trends.  Get direction on how to dig deeper on particular issues - e.g., track population but dig deeper on health outcomes.  Explore options by assessing how efforts to increase tourism or spin-off industries have fared in other, similar regions. That is, identify appropriate 'levers' and 'success factors'.

How we can help

Work with the UQ team - The toolkit provides an introduction to an 'adaptive assessment' method developed by the University of Queensland.  We have integrated best practices in social impact assessment and monitoring.   The method has gained praise from experts in Australia and internationally as being a significant advance.  It offers transparency and cost effectiveness - providing insights that can be readily understood in communities, industry, and government.  It goes beyond impact assessment to creation of a monitoring and navigation tool.  Contact us to learn more about the services we offer.

Cumulative Impacts

Major and multiple resource projects can create a complex array of outcomes.  They are called ‘cumulative effects’ or ‘cumulative impacts’.  This toolkit is designed to address, characterise, and provide insight into responding to situations of rapid growth, rapid investment, and cumulative impacts. 

Cross-sector collaboration

The tools here are for use across sectors.  They are meant to help boost communication and foster collaboration.  Align efforts - a key need in situations where cumulative impacts occur.  Local government, community groups, state government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the resource industry.  

Tracking, anticipating, and responding to change

The toolkit can be used to collect baseline and historical information about a community (small or large).  It is important to establish a baseline - more correctly, a 'trend line' - on a town or region before resource development begins.  What was happening before the development came along?  Is the population growing or declining, for example? It is also essential if you are responding now, mid-stream.  

The tools enable tracking changes during a growth period or a period of decline.  How much is the cost of housing changing, for instance?  To what extent are crime rates rising or falling?  Identify responses to those changes.  Plan for future periods of growth (or decline).  Should the local government rezone for more residential development, for example?  Will skills training provide needed long-term benefits, or will young adults migrate from the region anyway? 

Uses of the Toolkit

Purpose Description Stakeholders
Assessment Characterise and assess the cumulative social and economic effects associated with resource development  Industry, governments
Accountability Provide specific and understandable figures accounting for outcomes from regional planning, project delivery, or impact mitigation  Industry, governments, community groups, NGOs.
Allocation Identify 'hot spots' where resources and/or responses are needed most   Industry, governments, NGOs, community groups.
Argument Strengthen an application for funding or provide an argument for needed resources Community groups/NGOs


Illustrate the magnitude of desired changes (e.g., in employment) compared to historical trends, and work toward agreement across sectors on targets and timelines Community groups, governments, industry

What this toolkit aims to do

This toolkit aims to inform decision making in different sectors - as discussed above.  Long-term social and economic trends, systems understanding, and international benchmarking are generated in the application of the first set of tools.  They provide a robust platform.  Further tools inform a strategy for harnessing rapid change for long term benefits.  They help to build common understanding of cumulative impacts.  That is a first step toward collaborative efforts across sectors.  Such efforts are needed to address impacts and take advantage of opportunities. 

Enable residents, business owners, and government to understand where a town or region has come from.  What are the human, financial, and infrastructure ‘assets’ or resources available?  What might the future look like given historical trends and recent development?  How does one get from the status today toward a feasible and desirable future?  Can towns in an agricultural region evolve into services hubs?  What is the viability of starting lifestyle (retirement) communities? 

What this toolkit does not aim to do

While assessing cumulative impacts, the toolkit does not specify whether the impacts are ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  It is not an autonomous 'expert system', giving easy answers to hard questions by simplifying and modelling.  Our approach reflects these concerns and constraints:  

1. Values - What is seen as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for a community is a value-laden judgment.  More young families may appeal to business owners but not to someone seeking a quiet retirement. Our aim is that the toolkit will generate information – e.g., our indicators - to be used as a ‘boundary object’. A boundary object is something that helps to get people ‘on the same page’.  That is, it can stimulate and inform important conversations among a community’s stakeholders. 

2. Trade offs - It is not logical to just ‘add up’ different impacts to see if there is an overall ‘good’ or bad’ outcome. For example, if crime rates increase (assumed to be a ‘bad’ impact), but incomes are also up (assumed to be a ‘good’ impact), has the community’s well-being improved overall? What are acceptable or unacceptable trade-offs?

3. Winners and losers - The same impacts can mean different things to different people. E.g., higher house prices are ‘good’ for those wanting to sell, but ‘bad’ for those wanting to buy or rent.

4. Complexity - Some impacts are very difficult to measure.  Those with multiple complex causes and effects, e.g., psychological stress, are not well understood.  Stress can be a cumulative effect of drought in an agricultural region compounded by uncertain effects of resource development on property values. 

5.  Informing, not deciding - The toolkit collates needed information, but it not does give easy answers.           

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How do I cite the toolkit?

For most pages, you should cite the toolkit as:

UQ Boomtown Toolkit (2015). Name of page cited. Date accessed, from http://boomtown-toolkit.uq.edu.au.

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Disclaimer and Disclosure  

Data - The University of Queensland (UQ) does not warrant or represent the accuracy, currency and completeness of any information or material available on its website.  UQ reserves the right to update information or material on the website at any time without notice.  It is the user’s responsibility to consult directly with the authorised officer listed at the bottom of every page to confirm the accuracy, currency and completeness of information found on the site, particularly before acting in reliance upon such information. 

Wise use - The information on this site is intended to guide residents, organisations, and businesses in communities, industry, and government in handling rapid and significant changes in those communities.  It is highly recommended that such users consult qualified researchers and planners for insight on how best to use the information provided. 

Links - Web links from this site to external, non-UQ websites should not be construed as implying any relationship with and/or endorsement of the external site or its content by UQ, nor any commercial or other relationship with the owners of such site.

Research integrity - Researchers are bound by the policies and procedures of The University of Queensland (UQ), which are designed to ensure the integrity of research. You can view these policies at: http://ppl.app.uq.edu.au/content/4.-research-and-research-training.  The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research outlines expectations and responsibilities of researchers to further ensure independent and rigorous investigations. 

Funding disclosure - The funder for the research that led to creation of this website is the University of Queensland’s Centre of Coal Seam Gas (CCSG).  CCSG is currently funded by UQ 22% ($5 million) and the Industry members 78% ($17.5 million) over 5 years. An additional $3.0 million is provided by industry members for research infrastructure costs. The industry members are QGC/Shell, Santos, Arrow Energy, and Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG). The Centre conducts research across themes of water, geoscience, petroleum engineering, and social performance. For more information about the Centre’s activities and governance see http://www.ccsg.uq.edu.au/.  The information, opinions and views expressed in this report do not necessarily represent those of UQ, CCSG, or its constituent members or associated companies.