​Grylls calls for an end to FIFO camps

The Nationals member for the Pilbara, Brendon Grylls, has called for an end to large scale FIFO camps.

He called for the FIFO workers’ camps, a common sight in the remote Pilbara, to become a thing of the past as the region’s towns build capacity, the ABC reports.

The Pilbara has seen the largest boom of FIFO for any Australian region, as the boom in iron ore commodity prices, coupled with the remoteness of many of the area’s operations, created a need to get more miners into remote parts of the country.

Grylls has called on miners to house more workers in ‘normal accommodation’, instead of the camps.

"Local community leadership would like to see us move into a more normalised environment," he told the ABC.

"You don't see a camp for 2500 people in the outer suburbs of Perth, you see normal suburban suburbs with kids going to school and those people work in jobs in and around those communities."

He went on to say that development of the Pilbara would be if FIFO camp accommodation continued.

It undermines the very premise of residential living, investment by the private sector in building houses and commercial spaces and new shops opening and alike," he said.

"So it is a major challenge to try and change the way our mining sector has built up over time."

FIFO in the Pilbara has previously come under fire over corruption claims.

In 2012 allegations were made by a former council member that she was pressured to bypass council processes for BHP’s application to add 6000 more FIFO workers to its Port Hedland accommodation.

In 2013 a report was released examining the impacts FIFO had on the region, focusing on the downsides of using a transient workforce.

The report Cancer Of The Bush Or Salvation Of Our Citieswas compiled by The Standing Committee on Regional Australia who spent almost 18 months examining how FIFO and DIDO affected workers, their families and regional communities.

The findings of the 209-page report were tabled in Parliament last month, making 21 recommendations to government and 14 to industry including better resourcing communities under pressure from large FIFO workforces and removing tax benefits for companies using transient workforces.

Independent MP Tony Windsor, who chaired the committee, wrote in the report's foreword that governments of all levels needed to recognise and act on the issues impacting regional communities who were hosting large FIFO workforces.

“….the work practice is eroding the liveability of some regional communities to such an extent that it is increasingly removing the choice to ‘live-in’ rather than simply ‘cash-in,” Windsor wrote.

"Regional communities need a champion. This report calls for a champion."

Windsor said a policy mix was needed to ensure FIFO did not lead to "a hollowing out of established regional towns, particularly those inland.

In Karratha, Regional Development Australia Pilbara stated that “during the construction phase FIFO clearly has a logic to it”

However the operational workforce is often a different matter, especially in places like the Pilbara, with many saying towns are quickly turning into ‘shadow populations’ and that the transient workforce is impacting on the community, local resources and future developments.

Karratha mayor Peter Long told the ABC that the city currently has around 13 000 FIFO accommodation places, which was more than necessary.

However not every company is looking to FIFO in the region.

In Wickham Rio Tinto has placed its workers in the town, in accommodation it constructed, bringing them into the town.

The Wickham Town Expansion Phase 2 project will create a new Wickham South subdivision and includes 212 new dwellings, 25 residential lots, the installation of 198 new high quality FIFO accommodation units, the construction of a new 1600 metre square town administration and training centre for both the company and community, as well as the new public recreational parks.

Explosive manufacturer Yara has also taken a more regionally focused approach to workers in the region.

In direct contrast to the fly-in-fly-out phenomena, Yara Pilbara is constructing 60 homes in Karratha for new employees and their families.

Chief Executive of Yara Pilbara, Mark Loquan says the practice of “living local” is better for workers as well as the company.

“We believe having our people here in Karratha, in close proximity to our plants makes sense for us. It promotes continuity in our operations, and for those of our team members with families it means they can be together and share in being part of a larger community,” Loquan told Australian Mining.

Speaking to the ABC, WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy spokesperson Bruce Campbell stated that the mining industry will look to greater co-operation with the region.

"I think over time things have vastly improved and that degree of integration and the dialogue that exists between those planning, and the resources sector, has really improved," he said.


"Hopefully over time we are starting to address that and having accommodation facilities that meets the needs of the resources sector and meets the longer term needs of the town."

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