Newman FIFO camp causes Coalition divide

WA premier Colin Barnett has come under fire for his support of a FIFO camp licence extension at Newman.

The ABC reported that locals are disappointed with the Premier’s support for BHPs Kurra Village, which has capacity for 1200 workers at the Mount Whaleback iron ore mine.

Threatening Coalition relations, the Nationals Party has voiced its disapproval for the camp extension, which will grant approval to operate as a FIFO camp for another 20 years.

Nationals leader Terry Redman has said he will refuse to sign off on the deal between the WA Government and BHP, unless the camp is downsized from 1600 to 600 beds.

In parliament Redman accused Barnett of “screwing Newman”.

Local resident Paul Foster said that in the early 2000s BHP pledged to hand the FIFO camp back to the town to be used as a caravan park.

"I was chairman at St John's at the time, and they looked us straight in the eye and told us that,” Foster told the ABC.

Foster said a 2004 BHP planning document projected demobilisation of the camp by mid-2007.

Shire of East Pilbara CEO Allen Cooper said the company 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.

BHP said at present only 500 workers are accommodated in the camp, while 750 are accommodated in the town.

BHP corporate affairs vice president Julius Matthys, in an internal correspondence, told employees that the company would not force any FIFO workers to become residential staff.

Matthys also said that a survey of 150 FIFO workers had found that 10 people had expressed interest in relocating to Newman.

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