Article – FIFO camps should become 'thing of the past', Brendon Grylls says

30 July 2014
Ebonnie Spriggs
ABC News
Large-scale, fly-in fly-out (FIFO) mining camps should become a thing of the past as the State Government works to develop Pilbara towns into thriving populations centres, former WA Nationals leader Brendon Grylls says.
Mr Grylls, the architect of the State Government’s Pilbara Cities policy, said the northern towns were building their capacity to better cater for mine workers.
Announced in 2009, Pilbara Cities seeks to build the population of Karratha and Port Hedland into modern cities of 50,000 people by 2035.
Mr Grylls said resources companies should consider housing employees in more “normal” accommodation.
“Local community leadership would like to see us move into a more normalised environment,” he said.
“You don’t see a camp for 2,500 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.”
Realising the vision for the region would be difficult if accommodation with “barbed wire” and “boom gates” continues, he said.
“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.”
Mr Grylls said temporary construction camps had no place in the “modern cities of the north that we aspire to.”
“Not to say that FIFO will come to an end … but if we are looking for what does Karratha or Port Hedland or Newman look like in 5 and 10 years time, I think they look more like the cities of Bunbury and Geraldton where big workforces are housed in normal community settings,” he said.
Leases for some temporary worker camps in the region are due to expire in the next few years.
Woodside’s lease for its 2,000-bed Gap Ridge camp, in Karratha, is due to expire in 2017, and Mr Grylls would like to see it shut down.
Woodside has declined to comment on its plans.
Any decision on the future of the lease would rest with the new Lands Minister and current WA Nationals leader Terry Redman, who is visiting the camp today.
Businesses need flexibility: Redman
Mr Redman said the future of FIFO camps cannot undermine regional development.
“I have had a number of conversations with parties that have TWAs [Transient Worker Accommodation] that have come up for lease renewal. I am working through my policy position about how I want to approach that,” he said.
“It’s clear when you look at the whole state you can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach.
“Of course, we need to try and preserve as much flexibility as we can for the companies that are doing business.
“But what I won’t do is undermine the level of investment interest into these communities because that would undermine regional development and that’s not part of my agenda.
“I know of a number of significant investment interests into the city of Karratha in this case who are very anxious about the status of the TWA at Gap Ridge.”
FIFO bed numbers need to be cut: shire
Karratha City Mayor Peter Long said the city has 13,000 FIFO beds, which he thought was excessive.
“We estimate there will need to be 4,000 to 5,000 FIFO beds permanently in Karratha,” he said.
The shire does not agree with extending the Gap Ridge lease any further, but hopes to come to an arrangement with Woodside, he said.
He said he hoped mining firms would look to Rio Tinto’s operations in Wickham when considering how to house their workforce.
“They have effectively built a hotel for their operational FIFO workers in town, which is a beautiful structure,” he said.
“The workers can actually participate in the activities in the town itself.”
Chamber of Minerals and Energy spokesman Bruce Campbell Fraser said the resources industry would continue to work with locals to meet community expectations.
“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.”
Courtesy of ABC News