Newman’s housing a tinderbox at risk of imploding

Headshot of Tom Zaunmayr
Tom ZaunmayrNorth West Telegraph
Video'DIDO' work will soon be advertised by BHP.

The State opposition has warned Newman is at risk of a “Kalgoorlie-like” implosion if social housing overcrowding and a high company home vacancy rate is not urgently addressed.

A visit to Newman in April led WA Nationals leader Mia Davies to describe some pockets of the mining town as “like a war zone” after seeing hundreds of boarded-up BHP and State Government houses, many of which had been vandalised.

BHP owns about 400 vacant houses in Newman.

A further 30 belong to the State Government.

Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, deputy Opposition leader Lisa Harvey said a situation was brewing in Newman which could have “catastrophic” consequences.

“We do not want to see the catastrophic outcomes that we saw in Kalgoorlie,” she said.

“When people see graffiti and boarded-up houses and houses being treated inappropriately, they start to look for someone to blame.

“We do not want that to happen in Newman.”

VideoPolice have been forced to close the Kalgoorlie Court House after angry protesters smashed windows to try and get in. A 55-year-old man has been charged with the manslaughter of a 14-year-old boy. Video: 9 News Perth

Ms Harvey’s comments were a reference to months of racial tensions which boiled over on Kalgoorlie streets and online following the 2016 death of Elijah Doughty.

Community Services Minister Simone McGurk said the State Government was tackling issues facing Newman in a joint approach with the community.

“It is true that there are issues of accommodation and policy issues about the location of the workforce, but to think that one or two initiatives will magically resolve a number of issues in Newman or other communities like that is fanciful,” she said.

“Where we have those joined-up approaches and are working with young people and their families, we are starting to see some really good outcomes.

“I want to see how we go with tracking some of those outcomes over time before we celebrate them too much, but clearly young people do not act in an antisocial way and act out that behaviour in isolation to what is going on at home and in their wider community.”

gen Newman images of empty homes in Newman Western Australia supplied by The Nationals
Camera Icongen Newman images of empty homes in Newman Western Australia supplied by The Nationals Credit: The Nationals

Ms Davies said Newman was on the brink of crisis.

“Some of the streets we went down, we saw boarded-up house, boarded-up house, boarded-up house and then one lone residence surrounded by a plethora of empty houses,” she said.

“That is not a community.

“I feel that there are similarities in Newman to the situation we dealt with a couple of years ago in Kalgoorlie.

“All the precursors are present in Newman, and without swift and proactive action very soon, they could well lead to something far worse.”

Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel said local police were already leading programs to get at-risk youths off the streets.

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