Chinchilla-based coach operator Kaye Maguire of Maguire Coaches has experienced the highs and lows of the Surat Basin's onshore gas projects, which she says hasn't always been an easy ride.
In this article, Kaye shares with the GasFields Commission their experiences working with the onshore gas industry and how they are adapting as the industry transitions from construction to production.
Maguire Coaches has been based in Chinchilla for over 26 years servicing a wide range of industries including the onshore gas projects that have developed in the Surat Basin.
Gas business no easy ride
Kaye acknowledges that it hasn't always been an easy ride for their family business servicing these major resource projects which are subject to the whims of global commodity markets and other cyclical factors as they move from construction to longer-term production.
Kaye says the demand for bus services peaked in 2012 and 2013 during the construction boom of the onshore gas industry and they grew their fleet to 50 coaches and employed over 80 staff.
“We worked with all the major gas companies busing workers to sites around the Surat Basin including transfers between the airports and the camps.
“It was a crazy time for everyone during those years but then from early 2014 things began to change very quickly as construction activity wound down and increasing numbers of fly-in-fly-out workers as regional airports were upgraded.
“Operational and worker health and safety requirements also saw a rise in the number of workers living in on-site camps in the region which meant there were fewer workers needing to be transported daily from towns like Chinchilla to their work sites.
“We also saw an increase in competition for the same market especially from coach companies that were not originally based in the region.”
Kaye says as a result of all these factors they had to adapt their business to suit the changing demand and that saw them reduce the number of coaches and drivers over the past 18 months.
Better communication needed
Kaye says one of the main challenges for local businesses like hers was the lack of ongoing information and communication from the onshore gas operators about the transition and their changing workforce and supply needs.
“There have been some confusing and mixed messages about what work is around and what the future will be like for these onshore gas projects.
“This has stemmed partly from a lack of access to the relevant decision makers in these projects and the impact of unforeseen global market pressures such as low commodity prices.
“While there have been several supplier forums organised with industry about this next phase of operations, it is extremely important that regular updates and information continue to be provided as local firms look to respond and manage their own businesses.
“We are all in this together—the onshore gas industry and local businesses—all striving to create sustainable jobs and long-term opportunities for our community.
Kaye says using business networks provided by industry, local chambers of commerce and regional development organisations are a great way to help stay in touch and to build and maintain relationships.
Optimistic about the future
Despite the current slowdown, Kaye is optimistic about the future and positioning her business to continue to service the onshore gas industry through the operations and maintenance phase.
“We continue to look to ways to improve our service offering and cost efficiencies while ensuring we meet the stringent safety and other standards required to supply this industry.
“We are trying to find a happy medium – we don't want to go back to being the crazy busy that we once were, but we are looking for longer-term contracts from the onshore gas industry as well as continuing to diversify into other sectors in order to underpin our business for the future,” she says.
For more information on Maguire Coaches at Chinchilla visit their website.
Note: This article should not to be reproduced without the approval of the GasFields Commission – please contact Enquiries on 07 4542 7800.
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