12/12/2014 - 12:47

FIFOs stay on the fringe

12/12/2014 - 12:47

Bookmark

Save articles for future reference.

BHP Billiton’s plans to renew the lease on its fly-in, fly-out camp on the outskirts of Newman, rather than take up existing empty housing in the town, has prompted a chorus of dissent from Pilbara-focused property groups.

FIFOs stay on the fringe
HISTORY: Newman has long been known as a BHP town.

BHP Billiton’s plans to renew the lease on its fly-in, fly-out camp on the outskirts of Newman, rather than take up existing empty housing in the town, has prompted a chorus of dissent from Pilbara-focused property groups.

The mining giant is seeking state approval to extend the lease on its 1,200-person Kurra camp for 20 years, but locals point to more than 200 vacant residential properties and plans for hundreds of apartments and houses to be built in several new housing estates.

BHP’s nearby Mt Whaleback mine has been integral to the development of Newman and, as a result, it owns more than 1,000 homes in the town, which it uses to house residential workers. However, it is keen to continue using FIFO workers for its operations.

Pilbara-focused developer Crawford Property Group director Ryan Crawford said he was concerned that investors, developers and home owners would be scared away if BHP renewed its Kurra lease.

A new house in Newman currently rents for $1,000 per week, while an older home goes for $500/week. The average selling price for a new home is $750,000, while older properties go for $450,000.

A year ago there was a 2 per cent residential vacancy rate; now it is 8.5 per cent.

Mr Crawford said BHP might be surprised if it looked at how affordable it would be to commit to housing its employees in town, rather than Kurra.

“I think the fact they do have a very strong presence in town is a great opportunity for them to do that and build Newman for the future,” he said.

Developer Macro Realty’s chief executive, Veronica Macpherson, said there was no need for camps when hundreds of new homes were coming to market starting from next year.

“We had assumed that with the lengths and expense the government has gone to creating Pilbara Cities if we delivered housing the make-do accommodation would be abolished,” she said.

Pilbara MLA Brendon Grylls told Business News BHP was given approval to build its Kurra camp in 2004 because there were no other housing options, but circumstances had changed.

Mr Grylls said a decision to renew the camp for its FIFO workforce would jeopardise the government’s Pilbara Cities vision, which aims to increase Newman’s current population from 5,500 to 15,000 people by 2035.

“To me the only way this will change is when government draws a line in the sand and says this shouldn’t be approved,” he said.

Shire of East Pilbara chief executive Allen Cooper said the council had recommended to the state that BHP be allowed to renew its lease on the conditions that: it was restricted to 1,200 people; it only be used by BHP workers who cannot be accommodated in town; and BHP commits to more integration opportunities such as funding community activities and spaces.

Mr Cooper said the council’s preference was that workers be housed in town, but that it was better to have some interaction with the workers at Kurra than none at all.

BHP, which has spent $73 million in the past three years on housing and community development projects in Newman, said it was committed to its strong residential presence in Newman and would continue to seek quality accommodation for its FIFO workforce.

 

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options