Lodge tap­ping into labour need

Skilled work­ers look for farm work to ob­tain a visa

Gatton Star - - INTO RURAL LIFE - Meg Bolton Meg.bolton@gat­ton­star.com.au

TOURISTS at the Gran­tham Farm­work­ers Lodge are un­tapped as­sets, ac­cord­ing to man­agers Rod Ap­plin and Grace Tolcher.

With qual­i­fied plumbers, engi­neers and elec­tri­cians among their lodgers, the man­agers said lo­cal farm­ers would ben­e­fit from hir­ing the board­ers.

“These guys aren’t af­ter skilled labour. If I was a farmer and I had a huge ir­ri­gation sys­tem and I knew there was a plumber look­ing for paid labour work, (I know) it’d work a lot bet­ter for me,” Mr Ap­plin said.

At present, the lodge houses more than 100 tourists but it re­ceives up to 10 in­quiries ev­ery day from in­ter­na­tional res­i­dents look­ing for farm work.

“We ac­tu­ally help them find jobs,” he said.

“Our big­gest prob­lem at the mo­ment is get­ting the farm­ers that don’t use labour hire or any­one like that to re­alise that we are here and we’ve got labour if they need it.”

Mr Ap­plin said when farm­ers in need of labour con­tacted the busi­ness, he was able to fill the po­si­tions al­most im­me­di­ately.

“If farm­ers ring up and say they need three work­ers, I’ll go around, get three work­ers and drop them to work for the day,” he said.

“What we need is prob­a­bly more of farms in the dis­trict to ei­ther send us through an email when they’re hir­ing and we can put it on a job board.

“It will keep the back­pack­ers in a job but also it means the farm­ers know they have an abun­dance of labour that go straight out.”

Since open­ing in late July, de­mand for ac­com­mo­da­tion at the Farm­work­ers Lodge has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions.

“When we opened, be­cause we were in the off sea­son, we weren’t ex­pect­ing to have any more than 50 peo­ple,” Mr Ap­plin said.

“Now we’ve got 100 (lodgers) and we’ve got more com­ing. We are look­ing at start­ing stage two, which will take us up to 600-bed ca­pac­ity.”

The man­agers credit the lodge’s pop­u­lar­ity to its fam­ily at­mos­phere

“Ev­ery one of them so far treats us and thinks of us as their Aus­tralian par­ents,” he said.

“It’s just like a neigh­bour­hood. It’s a big cul-de-sac where ev­ery­one knows ev­ery­one.

“There’s been no vi­o­lence. They’re told when they get here we are like a fam­ily (and if ) some­one wants to fight, ar­gue or do the wrong thing, find some­where else to live.”

Ini­tially the elec­tric­ity ca­pac­ity was lim­ited to cater­ing for about 100 beds but two weeks ago the site be­came fully func­tional with lodg­ings of 250 beds con­nected to power.

The fa­cil­ity is equipped with a restau­rant and bar which is ex­pected to open next week when the li­cence ar­rives, cre­at­ing four jobs.

“We’ve gone through BEST Em­ploy­ment and they’ve sup­plied us with four lo­cals,” Mr Ap­plin said.

Our big­gest prob­lem at the mo­ment is get­ting the farm­ers ... to re­alise that we are here and we’ve got labour if they need it.

— Rod Ap­plin

PHOTO: MEG BOLTON

HELP HERE: Grace Tolcher and Rod Ap­plin of Gran­tham Farm­work­ers Lodge.

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