No love lost for Hunter FIFO from councils

NSW Hunter region

Hunter councils are demanding more involvement in deciding on fly-in fly-out camps like the proposed $100 million temporary camp in Singleton.

They are asking Premier Barry O’Farrell to revise planning legislation. Nine mayors voted unanimously to debate what they call ‘inadequate legislation with the premier at Thursday’s Hunter Councils meeting.

Deputy Chairwoman of Hunter Councils and mayor of Lake Macquarie Jodie Harrison said there needs to be guidelines outlining how to use FIFO employees in the NSW mining industry.

“There needs to be more consideration of the social impact [of FIFO camps],” Harrison said.

A women's mining group recently dismissed the view that fly-in, fly-out rosters were destroying relationships, saying it is a 'cop-out'.

Women in Mining WA said FIFO work is fulfilling and many employees are happy with the system.

The miners’ camp has faced heavy opposition from chairman of Hunter Councils and Maitland mayor Peter Blackmore since it was proposed in April, The Maitland Mercury reported.

“If a mining company establishes a camp that flies or drives in workers the money they earn is not spent here in the community it is taken home to where they come from,” Blackmore said.

He expressed concerns about the consequences of mining camps on the local community and service clubs.

Harrison agreed, adding the Hunter Councils have not yet formed a stance on the Singleton plan.

“If a worker gets sick yes they go to the hospital but fly-in fly-out operations bring their own food [and other goods],” she said.

BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance's Daunia mine is expected to have 450 FIFO workers by the end of June, which has not boded well with the locals.

The move comes as the mine has started pulling coal from Central Queensland's Bowen Basin.

The company recently advertised for 1050 workers to run Daunia but were flooded with 18,000 applications. The company set up 'assessment centres' in Brisbane and Cairns to narrow down applications.

The Hunter mining camp and the fly-in fly-out proposal faced further opposition at a roundtable meeting organised by CFMEU from Blackmore and New England MP Tony Windsor.

Windsor chaired the Standing Committee on Regional Australia and tabled a report in February which exposed the disadvantages of using a transient workforce.

The 209-page report recommended better resourcing communities under pressure from large FIFO and DIDO workforces and eradicating tax benefits for companies using transient workforces.

"…the work practice is eroding liveability of some regional communities to such an extent that it is increasingly removing the choice to 'live-in' rather than simply 'cash-in'," he wrote.

The CFMEU recently criticised BHP's decision to use 100 per cent FIFO labour ahead of locals from Central Queensland communities for two mines in the Bowen Basin.

Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon expressed his dissent the next day at a Singleton public meeting, saying the camp would negatively impact Hunter’s economy, particularly in a period of job losses.   

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