13/03/2007 - 22:00

Pressure's on in Esperance

13/03/2007 - 22:00

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Esperance is in the midst of an accommodation development boom, driven by an influx of mine workers and tourists seeking permanent and short-stay accommodation.

Pressure's on in Esperance

Esperance is in the midst of an accommodation development boom, driven by an influx of mine workers and tourists seeking permanent and short-stay accommodation.

WA Business News understands that holiday park owners and local landowners are scrambling to get development and rezoning approvals for park home and unit additions in time for an anticipated population surge over the next two years.

BHP Billiton’s $2.8 billion Raventhorpe nickel mine, 155 kilometres west of Esperance, is one of the driving forces behind the town’s progress, employing hundreds of construction industry workers who are keeping Esperance as a base.

Demand for housing in town is so acute that, in 2006, the median house price rose by 52.7 per cent on the previous year to $324,500, according to the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia.

The long-running Pink Lake Tourist Park, on Pink Lake Road two kilometres from the town centre, is one of a handful of caravan parks in Esperance seeking to capitalise on the situation.

Owner Greg Cole is spending $7 million to expand his 3.2 hectare park with 52 permanent and short-stay self contained park homes.

Mr Cole said the shortage of accommodation in Esperance gave him the confidence to develop his vacant 1ha rear lot with a mixture of two-bedroom and three-bedroom park homes, which he plans to sell off as strata properties on 50-year leases.

“Esperance is going through a major growth spurt. It’s going the way of Karratha with the resource projects having a flow-on effect to the town,” he said.

“The new mines like Ravensthorpe have given a huge lift to the housing market. I had five people in one day last week, including a carpenter and a bricklayer, ask about permanent accommodation.”

Mr Cole’s development will include the installation of a below-ground heated pool, commercial laundry, new barbecues, and a children’s playground with a permanent inflatable ‘jumping pillow’.

Building work on the first park homes will begin in June and are expected to be priced in the vicinity of $120,000.

Other accommodation projects on the agenda in the shire include a proposed expansion of the Duke of Orleans Bay Caravan Park on Wharton Road, Condingup, where an additional 91 self-catering units will be developed, subject to rezoning approval.

On nearby Orleans Bay Road, plans for a 15-room lodge surrounded by 60 self-catering units are also pending rezoning approval.

Esperance Shire president Ian Mickel said Esperance was booming and the supply of residential land was not keeping up with demand, forcing rents to escalate.

On the tourism front, he said demand for short-stay accommodation was such that the town was primed for a big hotel of around 4.5 stars.

“A few major hotel chains have been looking around to make a major investment so hopefully we’ll see something happen soon,” Mr Mickel said.

The mooted redevelopment of the landmark Pier Hotel and adjoining Best Western Hospitality Inn on the waterfront, comprising a new multi-storey hotel, conference facilities, restaurants and retail outlets, is understood to be more than three years away as six landowners continue to grapple over the plans.

Mr Mickel said no formal development application had been received but he believed the redevelopment would add vibrancy to the town and enhance its business sector.

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