A DAMA (Designated Assisted Migration Area) program is not looking, likely despite extensive discussions.
A DAMA program is a recognised agreement between the Federal Government and state, which allows regions to gain access to more overseas workers than the standard program allows.
This is fundamental for regional areas such as the Whitsundays, which are struggling to find workers.
Council’s Economic Development (ED) staff have been working with Greater Whitsunday Regional Development Australia (GWRDA) on the development of a DAMA in the Whitsundays, but its implementation is not looking likely.
In November 2022, a team of representatives from GWRDA, Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday Councils, Mackay and Whitsunday Coast Chambers of Commerce worked together to understand regional businesses’ interest in participating in the DAMA.
The level of businesses expressing an interest was very low, with only 29 suggesting they would be interested.
Chief operational officer of aviation and tourism Craig Turner said the cost of the DAMA program was too high to consider implementing it, with such a small amount of interested business.
“All operational costs for the first year to try and implement a DAMA are $150,000 – it’s a lot,” Mr Turner said.
“The businesses need to pay, we only had 29 businesses actually express interest in a DAMA. It’s about $2,500 for each business to use the DAMA to get an employee.
“We’re well short on the revenue required to have even one or two staff members on.
“At this stage, I don’t believe it will go ahead, only because the survey indicated that businesses didn’t seem overly interested.
“I was quite surprised by the results to be completely honest…anyone wanting to stay in the region and actually apply for citizenship and residency, well they will go to a destination that has a DAMA, because there’s a pathway to go through the process and apply for residency within three years.
“It’s disappointing that we haven’t seen the interest from industries, some industries are very, very keen for it, but others aren’t.”