COFFS HARBOUR may be on the way to getting on the right side of the two-step economy with inroads being made into a way to capitalise on the booming resource sector.
There's been an overwhelming response to a survey to find out how many fly-in/fly-out mining workers live on the Coffs Coast, which could help pave the way for the city to become a transport and training hub for the resource industry.
The online survey, sponsored by Coffs Harbour Regional Airport and Enterprise & Training Company Limited (ETC), was to conclude this week, but after receiving 200 responses it will now continue until Friday, October 21.
ETC's acting chief executive officer Diane Smith says the response has been very encouraging.
"We think given the long shift cycles at some sites, it's likely that some local workers are still unaware of the survey.
Extending it by a few weeks should provide a more accurate picture of exactly how many Mid North Coast residents are travelling away to resource sites," Ms Smith said.
The idea behind the survey is to find out if there would be enough demand to lobby for Coffs Harbour to become a central point of transport for workers from regional New South Wales heading to the mines.
"Coffs Harbour is the largest regional airport in the state and is one of the few capable of handling large jets," airport manager Dennis Martin said.
"If the demand exists, and the mine companies are supportive, we might one day see regular services from the Coffs Coast direct to regional Queensland or Western Australia."
It's a scenario that would save Upper Corindi mining worker Greg Baldwin time and money.
Arriving home yesterday from two weeks' work at the Woody Woody mine in Western Australia, Mr Baldwin says a faster way to get to work would be a win-win.
"At the moment I spend $1000 every three weeks on airfares. A more direct flight would also mean I spend more time at home; with the way the flights work I spend one-and-a-half days travelling out of my seven days off," Mr Baldwin said.
Mr Baldwin's wife, Roz, also sees it as a huge win for the local economy.
"We find now Greg's working away, we're more likely to go out and do things like have lunch or dinner or see some theatre. We like to make his time at home quality time," Mrs Baldwin said.
The survey is getting feedback from the Coffs Coast and Clarence Valley, but ETC is considering extending it to other regions.
"We believe that people a little further afield geo- graphically would be interested in the opportunity to contribute their thoughts to the idea," Ms Smith said.