Workers made to sleep under stars

A housing shortage is forcing workers in Chinchilla to pitch tents on vacant land.
A housing shortage is forcing workers in Chinchilla to pitch tents on vacant land. Contributed

RESIDENTS of Chinchilla are battling "tent city" syndrome, with an increasing number of workers and families unable to secure proper housing.

The Surat Basin Property Group has been working combat the spread of makeshift accommodation, but the company says demand is increasingly outpacing supply.

The resources sector continues to boom and rental vacancies continue to plummet.

Statistics from SQM Research shows Chinchilla has a rental vacancy rate of just 1.9 per cent, higher than other popular mining regions in Western Australia and Queensland including Karratha (4.3%) and Moranbah (5.1%).

Long time Chinchilla local and SBPG director Greg West said the sight of tradesmen sleeping in tents on house construction sites in the middle of town indicated how tight accommodation in the resource-rich region was.

"This situation is clearly not good for the tradesmen involved and it brings with it all sorts of workplace risks," he said.

"We build dozens of homes a year in this region and we ensure our standards are kept at high levels across the whole process and that includes looking after our workforce, which is all local.

"This sort of thing is not good for the town, for the tradies or I suggest for the end product."

SBPG director and builder Peter Schumer said the enclaves of tents in and around Chinchilla were symptomatic of housing pressures in the region.

"It's really an issue of housing supply rather than lack of affordability like in other mining regions," he said.

"The rent for an average family home here is about $500 per week and new home and land packages can be purchased from around $390,000.

"We have a long list of prospective tenants waiting for new homes, which is great news for investors, but it means some workers and families are finding it tough to find suitable accommodation."

Mr Schumer said providing suitable accommodation for the workforce was the responsibility of all business operating in the region, not just the resource companies.

"While camping in the showgrounds or by the weir might be a low-cost option, it's not a sustainable one for companies who want to attract and retain quality staff for their projects," he said.

"It's common sense that workers and their families who have access to safe, affordable housing will be physically and mentally better prepared for work."

Topics:  camping chinchilla

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