20/02/2007 - 22:00

Land, labour crises hit Port Hedland

20/02/2007 - 22:00

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The chronic accommodation shortage in Port Hedland has hit crisis point, despite rigorous development activity in recent months to cater for both increasing numbers of tourists and transient workers.

Land, labour crises hit Port Hedland

The chronic accommodation shortage in Port Hedland has hit crisis point, despite rigorous development activity in recent months to cater for both increasing numbers of tourists and transient workers.

With the Pilbara mining boom bringing hundreds of mine workers to the area, the Town of Port Hedland, in conjunction with the state government and major mining companies, are working towards expediting land releases and tackling the labour shortage, which is slowing construction projects and crippling small business.

In the tourism accommodation sector, more than 80 extra hotel rooms have been added to existing properties, in addition to the construction of a temporary caravan park at the golf course.

A 465-bed motel, developed by Fortescue Metals Group, is currently under construction at South Hedland,

Other hotels owners in the area are currently in discussions with devel-opers to extend their accommodations for tourists and workers.

Residential development in the town has also increased, with LandCorp releasing 95 lots in Pretty Pool, all of which were sold by ballot and substantially oversubscribed.

The Department of Housing and Works is planning to release 300 lots in South Hedland in June as part of the ‘new living’ project.

With some workers forced into hotel accommodation due to a shortage of rental properties, hotel availability for tourists is being put under pressure, with hotels booked out months in advance.

Town of Port Hedland chief executive Chris Adams said that, in the short term, an extra 400 beds could be made available if the federal government re-opened the Port Hedland Detention Centre, which has been closed since May 2004.

“The detention centre would be perfect accommodation for the transient workforce. We need to take the workers out of hotels and rental accommodation,” Mr Adams told WA Business News.

The federal government began a review into re-opening the detention centre on February 1, and is expected to report its findings at the end of March.

Mr Adams applauded Planning and Infrastructure Minister Alannah MacTiernan for fast-tracking the town’s land releases to date, but said more land was required.

Extra land releases would also go towards stemming the dramatic increase in rental prices, which have reached up to $1,000 per week for a standard 20-year old three-by-two home.

Mr Adams said the higher cost of living was hurting small business in the town, some of which were being forced to close because they had been unable to find staff.

“For those people who aren’t earning mining company salaries, there are some real issues,” he told WA Business News.

Mr Adams said he had received indications from a number of mining company executives that the boom could continue for a further three years for the construction phase alone.

This would then be followed by the operations element.

FMG is looking to bring in an additional 700 to 1,000 workers, with a number of smaller mining companies also seeking housing for up to 40 employees.

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