FIFO is Here

Published on Monday, 21 March 2022 at 11:22:53 AM

Make no mistake, while we constantly say that we don’t want FIFO in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, it has been creeping in by stealth for a number of years.

We don’t have a big workers’ camp like Pilbara towns or Coolgardie and Kambalda, but what has been happening is industry has been buying and renting houses and putting FIFO workers into them.

This is even worse than a camp because a four-bedroom house with four workers means a family can’t come to Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

Most major companies go out of their way to attract a residential workforce and good on them I say, but for the past three years the reality is the dire shortage of accommodation in town is forcing them to hire FIFO.

For years now local hotels, motels and boarding houses – even the former tourist brothel on Hay Street – have been used for permanent FIFO workers, with companies block-hiring a set number of beds for the entire year.

Tourists and former residents returning to Kalgoorlie-Boulder find it very difficult to get a bed and there are countless examples of business people coming for a number of days and being forced to move every night.

It therefore galled me to see at last Monday’s council meeting these business people objecting to the proposed camp near the prison (surely the best possible location for such a facility) when they themselves have become FIFO landlords. Worse still, most of them are now FIFO themselves, flying in to run the hotel or motel while their family lives in Perth. I regard some as my friends but in this case they are being hypocritical.

A quick look at figures for the airport will show just how much – slowly but surely – we have become a FIFO town. For the past 18 months – when the WA borders were closed, so hardly any interstate or international travellers - passenger numbers have been amazingly high and the only explanation in FIFO.

Charter flights specifically for FIFO amount to 2500 passengers a month and of the 24 000 a month with Qantas and Virgin, more than half travel in high-vis work clothes.

A report released this week by Infrastructure Australia titled Regional Strengths and Infrastructure Gaps found that a lack of quality housing was the biggest problem facing the Goldfields.

The report says: “Supporting new housing is a priority for the region with current challenges existing around a lack of available land for development. Visitor accommodation is also required…”

“The region is reliant on a transient population with fly-in fly-out workers dominating employment in the mining industry and with implications across sectors.”

My contention is that until we can get the FIFO workers into accommodation designed for them, families will continue to be locked out of the magnificent opportunities our town can offer.

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