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Postcard

I’M looking forward to the weekend, but for reasons that are quite different to those of my friends. While they head to the footy or go shoe shopping, I’ll be donning a daggy tracksuit and dipping some brushes in paint to coat the walls of my brand new home; my first. I’m looking forward to it because, unlike last weekend, my professional painter mate is coming out to lend a hand…and hopefully a steady one. That will leave me and my partner to do the ‘easier’ jobs of putting on the undercoat while my mate does the important part – cutting in with colour and putting on the topcoat. My positive outlook only surfaced after talking to business owners and hos-pi-tality operators in Broome this week. The conversations quickly erased my earlier disappointment that I could only get my painter mate in this Saturday morning and would have to wait seven weeks for the rest of the house to be finished. Wanting it all done sooner, I asked my friend if he could recommend someone who could do a few days for us. “Everyone is just as busy,” he said. But it would seem they’re not as busy as the tradies up in Broome. One senior Broome-based business-man told me this week he is considering flying a tradesperson to the town and will pay for all the tradie’s expenses so that some work can be done to the new house he’s moved in to. The businessman is offering this tradesman morning work only, hoping to lure him on the all-expenses paid trip to Broome with afternoons off. It sounds extreme but according to this businessman he is faced with a 16-week wait to get a tradesperson to his home. Up in Broome the tradies, just like many other residents, are paying as much as $850 a week to rent a house. So, many are simply moving on, particularly many low-paid hospitality workers. It’s a terrible situation, given that Broome is in the midst of a tourism boom with direct international flights expected by the end of the year. The hospitality workers need affordable land, affordable housing, and therefore, builders to build homes and tradies to fit them out. Unfortunately, Broome’s tourism boom has collided head on with a somewhat artificial property boom. Broome’s growth is constrained by native title, making it difficult for new land parcels to be developed. It’s a problem that has been looming for several years. I first reported about land shortages in the area in 2004 when I was on my first, and so far, only visit to Broome. I would love to go back. With the weather turning decidedly crisp this week in Perth, the thought of a few days with the temperature above 30 degree is pretty enticing. But, as a new first-home owner, the hardware store and garden centre are currently consuming any pay-packet surplus, so the next trip is likely to be a while away yet. I can only hope that a solution to Broome’s housing crisis is found so that the brigade of chefs, waitresses and duty managers can afford to live in the idyllic town and provide the necessary skills to underpin the tourism boom.

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