Friday, 23 May 2014

A profile of some aspects of Mallacoota

This post came about from looking up Mallacoota on Wikipedia.  The entry is generally pretty accurate but I was struck by the sentence "The town's largest employer, the abalone co-operative, was formed in 1967."

I know the abalone fishermen are an important lobby group around town (hence the extremely controversial breakwater at Bastion Point) but I was surprised to see that they are town's largest employer.  So I decided to explore the Census data to see what the picture is.  Obviously the data isn't going to be precise (and neither should it be).

There are two possible aspects of abalone fishing that could contribute to employment.  The first is the divers etc who go to harvest the abalone and the second is the workers in a factory or warehouse who process or pack the harvested product.  According to the 2011 Census there were 24 people in the "Other fishing" industry - which is where the divers would appear - and 13 in the seafood processing industry.  So with 37 of 393 employed people the industry is quite important to the town.

However the Agriculture etc and Manufacturing Industries are not the biggest employing industries.
The Accommodation etc Industry is going to comprise the several motels, guest houses and caravan parks in the area and thus not have a single large employer.  However the Education and Training industry includes 38 people employed in school education and thus the Victorian Department of Education is the largest employer!

In terms of economic base I suggest that tourism is more important than the abalone fishery.  This will directly drive the Accommodation industry (56 employed people) and account for a fair proportion of Retail Trade (37 employed people).  Of course defining 'tourism' is a vexed proposition: in the context of Mallacoota it is tempting to include "retirees" in the sense that they are attracted to the area's natural beauty in the same way as shorter term holiday makers.

How important are retirees to the Mallacoota community?  This is illustrated by comparing the age profiles of Mallacoota and Victoria as a whole.
Visually-challenged Frederick could see that there is a great over-representation of the older sections of the community in Mallacoota.  

So, my conclusion is that what is important for the economy of Mallacoota is drawing tourists and retires to the area.  I doubt strongly that building the breakwater will enhance that (eg by making it easier for recreational fisher-people to get out to sea) but if it interferes with the surf break or swimming conditions at Bastion Point - which are claims by opponents of the breakwater - it has a fair risk of dis-improving the tourism situation.  

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