A historic Port Hedland site could be set for a new lease on life after a development application for a 432-person workforce accommodation site was lodged amid crippling housing shortages in the town. The site at 15 Dempster Street was originally built as workforce accommodation for Mt Newman Mining Company (now BHP) in the early 1970s before being taken over by the Australian Government in 1991 and converted into a detention centre for refugees escaping civil war in Cambodia. It was Australia’s first immigration detention facility and was used until 2001 when the Australian Government signed the Pacific Solution, which allowed illegal immigrants to be detained in centres outside of Australia, including Christmas Island and Nauru. It became a contentious site with protests, both peaceful and violent, and escape attempts by detainees. The site was decommissioned in 2007 and leased by now-collapsed Auzcorp — controlled by Pilbara entrepreneur Haniff Kassim — which refurbished it to open commercial accommodation facility Beachfront Village. The site has been dormant since 2012. Now, a decade after it was last operational, an application for temporary workforce accommodation has been received by the Town of Port Hedland from Campbell Transport. If approved, the site would have accommodation for up to 432 people, with the proposal touting some 40 rental properties would be released to the public through the consolidation of Campbell Transport staff into a single facility. It comes as the latest data revealed a rental vacancy rate of one per cent in September 2022 across the Port and South Hedland townships, with average rents across the two areas increasing more than 50 per cent in two years. Campbell Transport estimates that it will require 208 of the 450 rooms available at the Beachfront Village and said they are “amenable to opening the remaining 242 rooms” for local small businesses requiring accommodation. The application seeks to have approval for workforce accommodation for five years through to April 2028, during which time Campbell Transport said they would work collaboratively with the Town of Port Hedland and the community to define the “future plan” for the site. Speaking to the North West Telegraph, former Town of Port Hedland mayor and outspoken ratepayer Arnold Carter said he was glad to see a future for the site. “It is one of the best spots in Port Hedland and with all the issues we’re having with housing shortages, I think this is a really good step towards addressing some of those issues,” he said. “Now I would just say get it done as soon as possible. The site doesn’t need too much work, so hopefully it can be up and running within the next few months.” The application is expected to go before the council on March 29.