Newman more like ‘a war zone’ than a mining epicentre
Conditions in parts of a Pilbara mining town have been likened to a war zone as hundreds of boarded-up BHP and State Government-owned houses become hotbeds of criminal activity.
About 160 BHP houses meant for residential staff in Newman have had windows and doors boarded up to protect them from damage and theft.
The miner has been criticised by the WA Nationals for failing to prioritise residential employees, a claim BHP says it is addressing with a new policy to encourage drive-in, drive-out workers.
BHP’s Kurra Village was due to shut down in 2016 and workers moved into town but the miner claims upgrades to other work camps has delayed the process.
It is aiming for the transition to be completed in September.
Of Newman’s 2600-odd homes, one-fifth are unoccupied. About 400 vacant premises belong to BHP and 30 to the State Government.
WA Nationals leader Mia Davies said Newman was being neglected by BHP and the State Government. “They are both significant home owners in the community, they can make the difference between this community looking like a vibrant and loved community to one that looks neglected and a little bit like a war zone in parts,” she said.
“It’s confronting, particularly in East Newman where there were piles of shattered glass, burnt-out car bodies on front verges, rubbish-strewn yards, boarded-up windows and the unmistakable signs of systematic neglect.
“You go to some of the facilities that have been supported by previous government investment and you see the aspiration that this community has to be an amazing place here in the Pilbara. Then you drive to other pockets and it’s disgraceful.”
A BHP spokeswoman said the company was using excess housing for social projects in Newman.
“For example, we are collaborating with the Pilbara Development Commission to support the Parnpajinya Town Based Reserve Transition Project and the Martu Education Strategy by providing housing to establish residential facilities for these projects,” she said.
The spokeswoman said an announcement this month to encourage more employees into drive-in, drive-out work in the Pilbara would drive up occupancy, though no specific targets have been set.
Newman police acting officer-in-charge Kristen Teale said opportunistic crime had spiked in areas where empty houses were prevalent.
“There are certainly pockets of it, it’s not rampant across the board but those premises have been targeted with graffiti, criminal damage and trespass,” she said.
“A large concern is with the graffiti comes solvent abuse—again that is largely a juvenile crime—which has criminal as well as health affects.
“It has sapped our resources but that is part of our core business.”
Department of Communities Regional and Remote Communities general service delivery assistant director general Rachael Green said five public and 22 government staff houses in the department’s portfolio were vacant.
Ms Green said demand for Newman housing had reduced due to the mining construction downturn.
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