Cautious nod for FIFO camp

Alicia PereraPilbara News
WA Nationals leader Mia Davies speaks outside parliament about the proposed Woodside Bay Village workers' camp for Karratha.
Camera IconWA Nationals leader Mia Davies speaks outside parliament about the proposed Woodside Bay Village workers' camp for Karratha. Credit: Alex Massey

Pilbara community leaders have given cautious support to a new 700-bed Woodside workers’ camp planned to be built in Karratha after it attracted negative community sentiment last week.

Woodside Energy is planning to build a new $400 million Bay Village workers’ camp on Balmoral Road in Nickol, in place of an existing temporary facility set to be demolished, and has nominated a preferred tenderer to construct and manage the facility.

The camp is an alternative to the company’s previously planned Gap Ridge Village facility, and will house workers hired for a set of new projects Woodside is taking on in the Pilbara in coming years, including a life extension of the North West Shelf Project, processing natural gas from the Browse Basin and expanding the Pluto LNG plant.

City of Karratha Mayor Peter Long said the local government was cautiously supportive of the proposed camp, especially if it was built to be “architecturally appropriate” for the suburb and workers in its central location were encouraged to use community amenities.

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“We’d like the people to be able to come out and use our gymnasiums and pools and bars and cafeterias, so we’d like to make sure that happens,” he said.

However, he said there was a high level of concern in the community about any perception of more FIFO work for resources projects.

“It is definitely a community concern and we hope that Woodside can answer that,” he said.

Woodside reiterated its previous comments about the camp, in which its Australian business vice-president Brad Russell-Lane said it was pursuing a “pipeline” of development opportunities in the Pilbara aimed at keeping the company invested in the area long term.

Appointed builder Multiplex has also indicated the majority of workers involved in the camp’s construction would be residential.

Karratha and Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive John Lally said he hoped local businesses would be engaged in the camp’s construction and its workers could get involved in the wider community.

The Nationals WA last week called on the State Government to reject it, with party leader Mia Davies saying such a facility would undermine the push for more investment in Karratha.

During questions without notice in Parliament late in the week, Premier Mark McGowan said the Government would work with Woodside on the planned facility in the interest of promoting more jobs for WA workers.

Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel said no decision had been made yet and the State government would collaborate further with Woodside before approving the camp.

“I understand the community concern about the plan, and we’re in the process of getting the facts and listening to all sides in regard to this proposal,” he said.

“While discussions between myself, the Premier and the Minister for Lands are in their early stages, my ultimate focus will be... maximising the number of workers living locally, working on local projects, and working with local content.”

He also noted Woodside invested significantly in the Pilbara and employed all of its apprentices locally last year.

Nationals deputy leader Jacqui Boydell said the recent demolition of Woodside’s fly-in fly-out camp at Gap Ridge had been viewed as a turning point for the community while the planned facility would be a backwards step.

“Karratha is a place for families, not FIFO camps,” she said.

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