Worker camp lease sparks FIFO debate

Taylar AmoniniNorth West Telegraph

The Town of Port Hedland has given in-principle support to the controversial Port Haven transient workers’ accommodation lease extension, owned by BHP.

While the agreement comes with several provisions including the Town and BHP coming to an agreement over the percentage of the firm’s workforce permanently based in Port Hedland, it potentially means a three-year extension.

The lease, which ends in March 2019, was not unanimously supported by the council, with Cr Louise Newbery saying the North West would not survive if transient workforce accommodation was still supported.

“What I’d love for this town is to see a thriving community again,” she said.

“This town needs people. We can’t keep affording these facilities if we do not have a community.

“I don’t want bums in camps, I want bums in houses.

“The more houses we get the more rates we get.

“The more rates we get the more the small businesses thrive because people have to buy food and they’ll have to use the services.”

In response to Cr Newbery’s concern, Mayor Camilo Blanco made the statement that agreeing to this agenda item did not mean an extension would be granted.

“There are some risks with not negotiating this proposal and that’s exactly what the officers’ recommendation is about — it’s about negotiating what comes next,” he said.

“Its not a decision to approve the camp, it is a decision to start negotiations relating to the future of the facility and gives BHP some direction for their business.

“We need to be careful that we don’t move back into that phase where we reject discussion and reject potential for the town and create unnecessary hardships for our people that was created previously.”

BHP says fly-in, fly-out accommodation is required despite the firm “already having a majority of its workforce living residentially in the town”. The TWA leases, including Port Haven, cannot be renewed or extended without the consent of the Town.

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