Port Headland Worried by FIFO Swamping

Plans for a big 6000-bed temporary workers’ “camp” adjacent to Port Hedland’s international airport have sparked fears from community leaders that the town of 16,000 will be overrun by fly-in, fly-out workers.

Pilbara Labor MP Tom Stephens said he was worried that an extra 6000 FIFO workers shoved into the middle of the town would put an intolerable burden on Port Hedland’s infrastructure and services.

“The council should protect the community interest, which is not served by allowing the place to be drowned in fly-in, fly-out workers, completely destroying the capacity of the town to have an orderly growth,” he said.

BHP Billiton proposes paying $7.2 million a year to lease 60ha of airport land from its owner, the Town of Port Hedland, for 10 years with three further five-year options.

BHP Billiton says the company would need a peak of an extra 6000 workers to support the growth of its iron ore operations in the region, particularly the proposed outer harbour development, a project which would greatly boost the miner’s export capacity.

Port Hedland councillor Stan Martin, a former mayor, said there were between 5500 and 7500 beds for transient workers in the town.

“Add another 6000 to it – and remember that (other iron ore miners) FMG, Atlas Iron, Hancock and everybody else are starting to ramp up as well – you’re going to have a situation where you have more fly-in, fly-out workers in the town than you have permanent residents,” he said. “It’s not sustainable.”

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