The Nationals WA fear Karratha will be reduced to a FIFO outpost after Mark McGowan buckled to Woodside’s demands for a new 700-bed camp in the Pilbara town.
Leader Mia Davies said the Premier had punched a significant hole in Karratha’s aspirations to be Western Australia’s first true city of the north.
“The message the McGowan Government has today sent to the community of Karratha, the small businesses, the sports clubs, the volunteer groups is: your town is not good enough,” Ms Davies said.
“Rather than fill the hundreds of Karratha houses currently sitting empty – more than 100 of which are owned by Woodside – or utilise the thousands of beds in local hotels or established accommodation facilities, the Government’s preference is to build a new camp.
“Perhaps the biggest kick in the teeth for the community is that their elected representative, the Member for Pilbara, has been complicit in having this camp built against their express wishes.”
A Karratha Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry report last year found the Bay Village proposal would lead to a net loss of 69 local jobs, $4.8 million in local incomes and rip $6.6 million per year from the local economy. A survey by the City of Karratha revealed 80 per cent of respondents were against the camp.
“For the sake of 70 temporary construction jobs and just 30 operational jobs once the camp is finished, the Premier will kill off and seriously wound a number of small businesses,” Ms Davies said. “Jobs will be lost and people will leave town.
“The unfortunate reality of FIFO camps is that workers rarely venture out from behind the boom gate once in place; they don’t buy or shop local and they disengage with clubs and other volunteer organisations.
“Not to mention all the associated mental health pitfalls and family breakdowns that are proven to go hand-in-hand with FIFO lifestyles.”
The City of Karratha last year revealed there were more than 4300 FIFO beds in town, along with 480 hotel rooms, which were at 60 per cent occupancy most nights. Woodside also had 120 houses sitting vacant in town.
Nationals Member for Mining and Pastoral Jacqui Boydell said despite Woodside promising the camp would be used to house workers during expansion and shut-down peak periods, it was likely long-term operational staff would utilise the facility.
“Assessments undertaken by the City of Karratha show there is sufficient accommodation available to meet both Woodside’s base load and shutdown needs,” she said.
“This is simply to do with cost and Woodside wanting to reduce their costs at the expense of the Karratha community.”