Lessons from Down Under: Gladstone, Prince Rupert’s sister city?

If Prince Rupert had a sister city in Australia, Gladstone would certainly fit the bill

From LNG boom to port operations to fishing and Indigenous Peoples culture

From LNG boom to port operations to fishing and Indigenous Peoples culture

If Prince Rupert had a sister city in Australia, Gladstone would certainly fit the bill.

From port operations, fishing and tourism to Indigenous Peoples culture, the similarities between Gladstone, a city of approximately 32,000 located on Australia’s northeast coast, and Prince Rupert are glaring.

Gladstone’s major industrial site is one of the busiest ports in the country, it has the Wiggins Island Coal Export terminal and north of the city, Curtis Island hosts three liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants.

While there are many comparisons between the two cities, Gladstone’s LNG development is several years ahead of Prince Rupert and taking lessons from a community that has already developed its LNG export market could help the North Coast avoid the bumps in the road ahead.

Mellissa Case is the Prince Rupert sustainability and community relations manager for Bechtel, an international engineering, construction, and project management company with deep ties to the Gladstone projects. Case, who worked on the Curtis Island LNG project near Gladstone is now working with the Pacific Northwest LNG proposed project for Lelu Island.

Recently, she offered a look into the crystal ball of what Prince Rupert can expect, if and when a proponent delivers its final investment decision (FID) to go through with an LNG project.

Build housing before they come

“As soon as an FID for a project is announced you’ll start to have a housing problem,” Case said.

Her suggestion is to start building now. She has already seen people arrive in the city from as far away as Manitoba looking for work opportunities and, as soon as an FID announcement is made, people will flock to the city.

Her other warning is that housing built 18 months after an FID will cause an over-supply in the market.

“It is a real balancing act to make sure you get the balancing act right,” she said.

In the last five years, Gladstone had three LNG terminals built and ready for export within six months of each other. During the construction phase, the workforce peaked at 14,500 people with 5,000 from the community.

Darryl Branthwaite, who has lived in Gladstone since 1982, was doing commercial real estate at the time and saw the demand for housing and rentals skyrocket.

“As those people left the region again instead of three to four per cent vacancy rates throughout the town you end up with around 10 to 12 per cent, maybe even 15 per cent. We’re talking going from 400 vacancies to 1,400 vacancies,” Branthwaite said.

He’s now the CEO of Gladstone Area Promotion and Development Ltd. which is attempting to prop up the city to be a tourist destination to make the city more sustainable.


Gladstone isn’t only reliant on its port or the export of coal. Although, it is the fifth largest coal terminal in the world and its port handles more than 83 million tons of cargo each year, it also has 11 major industrial operations.

For example, Queensland Alumina and the Rio Tinto Yarwun refineries both send their Alumina to Kitimat. Gladstone has $65 billion worth in projects in the pipeline and a 50-year plan to turn the region into an industrial powerhouse in Australia.

There are other ways it has diversified as well.

“Gladstone has diversified quite a lot to take advantage of its industry and industrial tourism is huge and generates massive income for the region, which is really surprising,” Case said.

After the construction phase ended, many of the workers left, and Branthwaite said retail spending dropped right off. But in his role to promote and develop Gladstone, he is trying to turn the region into a tourism hub.

They have had two cruise ships this year and he said it’s lifted the community’s spirits.

“Now they can see a different industry coming a long way and they’re quite proud of it,” he said.

The region has a lot to offer, even though the city is starting its tourism business from scratch. It has national parks, a thriving commercial fishing industry, bizarre wildlife (at least to people from outside Australia), historical sites from 1770 discoverers, Aboriginal cultural sites and the Great Barrier Reef.

“Under our noses we haven’t been looking for tourism because industry has been keeping us afloat and now they have to look at tourism and change their focus to keep these ships coming in,” Branthwaite said adding that there are 17 more cruise ships scheduled to arrive in the next two years.

Finding a niche

Businesses in the Gladstone community experienced both the advantages to having a massive industrial project being built nearby and the disadvantage to losing employees who flocked to the higher paying industry jobs.

One success story Branthwaite offered was when all the engineering companies banded together to form the Gladstone Engineering Alliance. This allowed many of the smaller engineering companies in the region to share on some of the bigger projects and keep the money within the community.

Case’s advice for businesses in Prince Rupert is don’t try to be everything to everyone, and keep prices realistic and competitive. Putting a “local tax” on prices will only drive the proponent’s business elsewhere.

“A lot of businesses that were the most successful in Gladstone found a niche market, found a problem, and went out of their way to fix it. They were really responsive and they also didn’t extend too far beyond their capabilities,” Case said.

She gave examples of coffee shops and coffee vans that created a partnership. The vans would sell the goods from the shops and drive to the work sites to meet customers. They served breakfast and lunches to meet the market demand.

Another successful business venture was the German sausage man who would drive two hours to the community and would serve 2,500 sausages in two hours at $7 a piece.

“There are thousands of opportunities for local businesses. My neighbour completed a simple task that he could do in his own shop without employing extra people and ended up with a multi-million contract,” she said.

The development of the three LNG sites in Gladstone brought $1.5 billion in local wages, $200-million in social infrastructure investment and 36,000 purchase orders and sub-contracts to local businesses. $1 billion was spent with local businesses and more than 350 local businesses provided support for the project.

There were also 436 apprentices trained during the projects’ five-year period and half of them were from the Gladstone community, said Case.

Gladstone and its three LNG projects were not without its hiccups, which is why learning from its successes and challenges may be key for Prince Rupert. Mayor Lee Brain said he hasn’t connected with people in Queensland yet, but council is already studying the effects of what happened there for developing future policies and plans.


Just Posted

Nic Pirillo received $1,000 Youth WORK Apprenticeship Award presented to him by Erik Brooke and Catlin Chandler of Broadwater Industries, in front of the boat Pirillo built in his free time using newly acquired skills. (Photo: supplied)
Learning and earning with apprenticeship

Nic Pirillo graduated in 2020 and was awarded the Youth WORK Trades award

According to the BC Centre of Disease Control epidemiology mapping from May 30 to June 5, there was an increase of one case in the Prince Rupert area after a three-week stability of no new cases. (Image: supplied BC CDC)
Prince Rupert second dose vaccination clinic to run from June 14 to July 9

Volunteers needed for P.R. immunization clinic, recipients must register and cases back up to one

Capt. Portugal was getting into the festive spirit out working for the City of Prince Rupert and celebrating Seafest 2021, on June 12. During regular business hours Capt. Portugal is known as David Costa. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Searching out fun in the sun for Seafest 44

Families and friends can participate in weekend COVID-19 friendly activities

Seafest is underway with a sunfest theme from June 11 to 13 in Prince Rupert. Alex Hoogendorn vice president of Prince Rupert Special Events is creating sunny times making feature for the decorating contest with his son Caleb Hoogendorn on June 4. (K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Seafest 44 plans a sunfest June 11 to 13 in Prince Rupert

All events in festival are COVID-19 safe, social distancing and health protocols approved by N.H.A.

Relay for Life will be held virtually on June 12. Donations and registered teams are decreased in numbers this year, but there is still time to register. Cancer survivors, Isaac Mastroianni and his dad Mark Mastroianni, wear their Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life survivors shirts. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
A lifeline for many, Relay for Life now needs community support

Prince Rupert is one of just four cities in B.C. with teams registered the June 12 event

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Websit back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Most Read