Shire calls for worker lodg­ings

Manjimup-Bridgetown Times - - Front Page - Pierra Wil­lix

Man­jimup Shire Coun­cil has called for land and busi­ness own­ers to de­velop ac­com­mo­da­tion for sea­sonal work­ers and back­pack­ers, but the man­ager of Man­jimup Back­pack­ers says any ad­di­tional ac­com­mo­da­tion built will re­sult in the clo­sure of ex­ist­ing busi­nesses.

Last month the coun­cil called on ru­ral em­ploy­ers to ac­com­mo­date work­ers on their prop­er­ties in or­der to min­imise the level of unau­tho­rised camp­ing as­so­ci­ated with the sea­sonal work­force, with the coun­cil open to con­sid­er­ing op­tions such as ru­ral work­ers ac­com­mo­da­tion and camp grounds.

Shire pres­i­dent Paul Omodei told the Times about 500 sea­sonal work­ers were ex­pected in the district this year, but this num­ber was ex­pected to grow to nearly 2000 within the next three years.

Man­jimup Back­pack­ers man­ager Ab­dul Haidari agreed with the es­ti­mated num­ber of work­ers, but said many were by­pass­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions in town and in­stead il­le­gally camp­ing or mov­ing into share houses.

Mr Haidari said he es­ti­mated “hun­dreds” of back­pack­ers were re­sid­ing in sev­eral il­le­gal camps around town, while he was aware of some share houses ac­com­mo­dat­ing as many as 13 peo­ple.

“We have sev­eral hos­tels, ho­tels, mo­tels and car­a­van parks al­ready and many are strug­gling,” he said.

In the last four months, Mr Haidari said only four peo­ple had stayed at the hos­tel, a strong in­di­ca­tion that more ac­com­mo­da­tion was not needed.

“We have 72 beds and even in the peak sea­son, usu­ally only 55 of these will be filled,” he said.

“It is cost­ing us sig­nif­i­cant amounts each week to con­tinue run­ning.

“If it goes ahead, within the next nine months or so, we would have to shut down.”

Mr Omodei said hor­ti­cul­ture had be­come the district’s big­gest in­dus­try and pre­dicted an in­crease in the num­bers of back­pack­ers com­ing here to work, but said the Shire did not be­lieve il­le­gal camp­ing was an is­sue.

“If it starts to be­come a se­ri­ous prob­lem, the Shire may have to move away from hand­ing out move-on no­tices and con­sider is­su­ing fines,” he said.

“This is some­thing we will be keep­ing a close eye on.”

But Mr Haidari listed sev­eral lo­ca­tions where he was aware back­pack­ers were camp­ing il­le­gally and urged the coun­cil to help tackle the prob­lem and help le­git­i­mate ac­com­mo­da­tion providers.

“We re­ally need help from the Shire and for them to stand with us and help us,” he said.

French back­pack­ers Dar­ryl Baya and Gae­tan Rouable ar­rived in town this week and said al­though they were aware many sea­sonal work­ers did not ar­rive un­til later in the year, they be­lieved the ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions on of­fer were suf­fi­cient.

“We didn’t have a hard time find­ing any­thing; there seems to be plenty of ac­com­mo­da­tion here,” Mr Baya said.

In the last nine months, the coun­cil has had three ex­pres­sions of in­ter­ests for po­ten­tial ac­com­mo­da­tion projects, but en­cour­aged oth­ers to con­sider the pro­posal.

How­ever Mr Haidari said es­tab­lish­ing more ac­com­mo­da­tion would be a “big mis­take”.

“The other places need to be filled first, we have more than enough op­tions,” he said.

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