BHP withdraws from Newman FIFO camp

BHP Billiton has withdrawn from its Kurra Village FIFO camp in Newman, WA, securing a win for Nationals leader Terry Redman over the camp’s license extension.

The workers will begin moving to other accommodation in August after attempts to extend BHP’s lease on the 1200 bed Kurra Camp became contentious between Redman and WA premier Colin Barnett.

Last year, BHP was approved by the Premier under it State Agreements to extend the camp’s lease – which expired in December 2015 – for 25 years and increase its accommodation to 1600 beds.

The Nationals Party, and the local council, disapproved of the Premier’s support, with Redman refusing to sign off on the deal between the WA government and BHP unless the camp was downsized from 1600 to 600 beds.

Shire of East Pilbara CEO Allen Cooper said BHP had a social obligation to use local accommodation in the town.

“The company has 300, maybe 400, empty accommodation units in town that could be used for residential employees, that will support town rather than a FIFO camp where no-one mixes,” he said.

He also called for the camp to be downsized to 600 beds and the remaining workers to be housed in vacant properties to enhance the town’s economy.

Redman also accused the Premier of affecting regional development and stopping FIFO workers integrating with the local community, according to the West Australian.

Barnett, however, claimed that not renewing the lease would bring into question WA’s commitment to its State Agreements.

Redman welcomed BHP’s decision to close the camp, as it would support the growth of Newman.

Pilbara MP and former Nationals leader Brendon Grylls said their party was the only one willing to fight for the state’s regional areas.

“We were under big pressure … (people) were saying we were destabilising government. This is a very important victory for Newman, its leadership and its business community,” he said

 A BHP spokeswoman said the move was based on commercial considerations and the best outcome for the employees. No comment was made on whether it was due to opposition from the Nationals.

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