11/11/2015 - 14:32

Fifo tensions escalate

11/11/2015 - 14:32

Bookmark

Save articles for future reference.

Friction between the resources industry and the mining town of Newman has escalated following the state’s decision to approve an extension for BHP Billiton’s 1,200-bed Kurra camp.

Friction between the resources industry and the mining town of Newman has escalated following the state’s decision to approve an extension for BHP Billiton’s 1,200-bed Kurra camp.

The Newman Chamber of Commerce and Industry released a statement today calling on Premier Colin Barnett to come to the town near BHP’s Mt Whaleback mine and speak with concerned business owners and community members to understand the implications of the decision.

Mr Barnett has come under fire this week from Nationals leader Terry Redman, who accused the premier of undermining regional development by extending the lease, which was originally sought for 1,600 rooms within the camp.

Mr Redman has said he would only approve a lease extension for 600 beds within the camp, and is refusing to sign the 1,200-bed lease extension agreement, putting the Liberal-National alliance on shaky ground. 

The Newman chamber said the decision to extend the BHP camp’s life by 10 years, with a further 15 years of options, contradicted the state’s Pilbara Cities vision and had been met with extreme concern and disapproval by residents and business owners.

The chamber said more than $100 million of Royalties for Regions funds had been spent making Newman more liveable, with upgrades to the town’s centre, vital infrastructure, and sporting, health, arts and community facilities.

BHP has also invested millions in the town, including $30 million for a new shopping centre, being developed in collaboration with Perth-based not for profit St Bartholomew's House.

However, major redundancies at Mt Whaleback have also led to a mass exodus from the town, prompting house prices to plunge and and increasing rental vacancies.

Business News has previously reported on how several BHP employees who lost their jobs had engaged law firm Slater & Gordon to fight for their Newman homes, amid claims the company altered aspects of its home ownership scheme.

The chamber said keeping BHP employees in a “closed village” rather than in houses in town meant the community and businesses suffered.

“To support local business growth in Newman, we need to have people reside in the town,” the chamber said.

In response, the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia said fly-in, fly-out workforces offered choice to workers, with many unwilling to relocate to towns in remote locations.

CME chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said its own research revealed 74 per cent of Fifo workers would not continue in their roles if forced to move to a residentially-based position.

“In short, Fifo workers chose Fifo life,” he said.

Mr Howard-Smith said the partners of more than 70 per cent of resources sector workers mwere employed, and this also influenced the choice of where Fifo workers and their families chose to live.

“People (with) families prefer to stay connected to jobs, education and support networks in the metropolitan area,” he said.

“While some employees will choose to relocate to regional areas for permanent work, others prefer the flexibility of a Fifo roster, allowing them to travel between their work site and existing home, where their families, friends and social networks are all based.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

Subscription Options