Planned housing for 5,400 in South Hedland

Landcorp chief executive Ross Holt says a high quality residential development will be crucial to attract workers to South Hedland.

The State Government has announced plans to develop housing for 5,400 people in South Hedland as part of its Pilbara Cities initiative.

The Western Edge project will be developed over 226 hectares and includes the potential for 2,300 residential and commercial dwellings, as well as a primary school, local centre, tertiary education centre and an aged care facility.

In announcing the project today, Landcorp chief executive Ross Holt said developers had until the end of August to lodge expressions of interest, and he expected the entire development to be completed within five to seven years.

The government’s investment in the project was anticipated to be around $100 million, which forms part of its $1 billion Pilbara Cities investment.

The proposed development will double the size of South Hedland’s City Centre and has been compared to Karratha’s Mulataga project. Designs of the first stage of the Mulataga project, with developer Mirvac, have been finalised and are awaiting development approvals.

The Karratha project is planned to ultimately provide 2000 residential homes.

Mr Holt said the Western Edge project will include accommodation for service workers in the initial phases to ease the housing shortages, but would transition into other forms of housing once the resource sector’s demand eased.

He said Landcorp was determined to create a high quality development to entice more people to live in the Pilbara.

“It needs to be of high quality if we are going to turn away from the FIFO model and get families to say ‘I want to move and live in the Pilbara’ rather than saying goodbye to their loved ones every few weeks,” he said.

Landcorp has also announced it’s looking for partners to develop a grouped housing site in Baynton West in Karratha, which has the potential for 38 dwellings.

It’s announced released land for five infill projects in the Perth metropolitan area at Mosman Park, Coogee, North Coogee, Girrawheen and Craigie.


Alpha mine on fast-track

SIGNIFICANT progress has been made in assessing the $6.4 billion Alpha Coal mine and rail project since the Federal Government took control of the process, Environment Minister Tony Burke said.

The team conducting the assessment has identified four issues that will need to be addressed under national environmental law before the Federal Government signs off on the Central Queensland project.

It’s now more than a week since an angry Mr Burke labelled the Queensland Government’s approval of the Alpha project as “shambolic” and “flawed”.

Cooler heads prevailed in Sydney last week when Mr Burke met with his Queensland counterpart Andrew Powell, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and Coordinator-General Barry Broe.

At that meeting it was agreed the Commonwealth would take over the approval of the Central Queensland project.

Mr Burke said on Friday his department was working closely with the Gina Rinehart-owned company.

Representatives from the department have met twice with the company, last week and again on Thursday.

“My department have stopped the clock on the approval timeline whilst it seeks further information from the company,” Mr Burke said.

“Stopping the clock does not mean stopping the process. In fact the process has progressed significantly during this recent period.

“This is a common practice to ensure my department has all the necessary information for a fully-informed decision. Once this additional information is provided, the clock will be restarted and a new statutory deadline will be set.”

Mr Burke said he remained confident the assessment process would deliver “sound environmental protection outcomes” within the company’s investment decision deadline.

Earlier this week the federal and Queensland governments agreed to changes to the bilateral agreement for future approvals.


Four key issues have been identified that need to be addressed by GVK Hancock Coal:

  • The need for more work on species habitat modelling and surveys to ensure the impacts on matters of national environmental significance, including listed migratory species in the Caley Valley Wetlands, and listed threatened species and ecological communities;
  • The need to ensure that rail loop impacts from earthworks run off, including impacts on the national and world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and on marine species, are mitigated, particularly in relation to the potential impacts on the near-shore habitat for dugongs, turtles and dolphins;
  • Clarifying the way the company’s cumulative impacts studies on Abbot Point interacts with other cumulative impact studies on the port;
  • The need for an enhanced “like-for-like” offsets package

Deepening housing crisis: report

NEW South Wales and Queensland are in the grip of a deepening housing crisis, a report has revealed.

The report – Housing Supply and Affordability, Key Indicators 2012 – released on Thursday showed housing supply was failing to meet demand in the states.

NSW experienced the most acute housing shortage with an estimated gap of 89,000 dwellings to the end of June last year, while in Queensland the situation was marginally better, with a shortfall of 83,000 dwellings.

Relative to the number of households, the largest estimated shortfall was in the Northern Territory at almost 15%.

The National Housing Supply Council arrived at the numbers after analysing underlying housing demand, supply, the balance between the two, and housing affordability.

It used data not available for inclusion in the 2011 State of Supply Report, released in December.

Using the new data the NHSC showed nationally the housing shortfall at the end of June was 200,000, up from the 187,000 estimate in the December report.

The council projects that the national shortfall will increase to 370,000 by 2016, 492,000 by 2021 and 663,000 by 2031, assuming historic demographic and supply trends continue.

Australian for Affordable Housing campaign manager Sarah Toohey said the report was proof the housing system was broken.

She said housing affordability – both in terms of house prices and escalating rents – remained a serious problem, with low-income earners feeling the most pain.

“The number of properties available and affordable to low-income households has decreased by 66,000 since 2007, taking the total shortfall to 539,000 properties,” she said.

“This is double the shortfall reported in the 2008 State of Supply report. This shortage of affordable and available rental properties makes it even harder for low income earners to keep a roof over their head.”

“We hear a lot of talk about falling house prices and a troubled housing market, but in our capital cities, house prices are still eight to nine times average earnings. Indeed the National Housing Supply Council report shows that house prices are at or above pre-GFC levels.”

She said the report showed why it was becoming increasingly difficult for younger people to enter the property market.

Australians for Affordable Housing has called on levels of government to formulate a national housing plan.

Parties talk health

BMA, Anglo American, Isaac Regional Council and Moranbah and District Support Services are working to address community needs in Moranbah and Dysart through the commissioning of Health Workforce Queensland to develop a sustainable model for the provision of medical services in both regions.

Consultants are investigating different models of practice ownership and management, and developing a medical recruitment and attraction strategy to deliver a sustainable model of service provision.

BMA asset president Stephen Dumble said population growth driven by the mining industry was increasing the pressure on local medical services.

“We recognise, based on feedback from community groups, that medical and associated health services are under pressure in Moranbah and Dysart,” Mr Dumble said.

“Consequently, we are committed to playing a part in finding a solution, particularly given the importance of such services for our employees.”

IRC Mayor Anne Baker said having committed industry and community partnerships to address fundamental areas of community concern was important.

“This study will also feed into the larger Bowen Basin Medical Model, which addresses health shortages at a regional level across the Central Highlands, Banana and Isaac council areas,” Cr Baker said.

Mega workers camp adds to Moranbah woes

It’s fairly safe to say that Moranbah isn’t a happy place right now.

Certainly in the past, there’s been big money made by property investors – and potential returns are still very high, despite the current oversupply of rental properties relating to mining giant BMA’s recent refusal to sign any new leases for staff.

The latest cloud over Moranbah’s property market is the controversial mining camp for 3,200 workers – technically it’s been approved by the Urban Land Development Authority, but Premier Campbell Newman has since handed that decision-making power back to Councils, and the Isaac Mayor is demanding the camp be scrapped by the Queensland Government.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney has until mid-next week to call in the mining camp development, which Mayor Anne Baker says will devastate the existing Moranbah township.

“You can’t solve a housing crisis by taking the last remaining residential land for family housing – and stick Queensland’s biggest camp on it. It just doesn’t make sense, particularly when you can put it somewhere else,” she says.

“It’s a destructive, illogical and irresponsible development that will threaten the future of one of Australia’s greatest coal mining communities. The Urban Land Development Authority and the developer are treating our community as a doormat,” says the Mayor.

Any property investors who’ve dabbled in the Moranbah market must be watching this stoush with interest.

When BMA stands firm, sales levels sneeze and the whole town catches cold from the resulting oversupply of rental properties – although it’s probably a temporary loss of confidence in such a small, high-demand market.

But what would happen to rental returns if another 3,200 workers are housed away from town, out of the local accommodation market? It’s a question that makes the very high asking prices on Moranbah investment properties look a little more risky than usual.

Some locals support the camp idea, applauding the theory that ‘Fly In, Fly Out’ workers could be housed out of town, away from permanent residents. The design isn’t final, but the camp is likely to have its own shops, bars, sporting and entertainment facilities – and locals are heartily sick of drunk young mine workers loitering around town causing trouble in the early hours.

On the other hand, if the estimated length and breadth of Queensland’s mining boom is to be believed, then investing anywhere in Moranbah can’t be wrong at almost any price. The current oversupply is probably just a hiccup. If you’re confident the demand for consistently overpriced private rental properties will still be strong in Moranbah for many years to come, then the mining camp result won’t bother you either way.

So, how long is a piece of string?!


By Melanie Stott, 13th June 2012


Moranbah’s housing crisis coverage

ISAAC Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker has rejected Premier Campbell Newman’s statement the former IRC had failed in its town planning measures, and said she remained committed to working with the State Government on future development applications.

Cr Baker last week issued a mass call to arms to protest the ULDA’s approval of a 3256-person MAC worker camp on the only remaining residential land in Moranbah.

ISAAC Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker has rejected Premier Campbell Newman's statement the former IRC had failed in its town planning measures.

Residents took up the challenge and bombarded Premier Newman through various means, including Facebook, which prompted the publishing of a statement late Friday afternoon.

“My government believes that councils are best placed to make decisions about the development of their own communities,” Mr Newman wrote. “Unfortunately, the previous council had not created a town plan for Moranbah that allowed for sensible development of housing for families and single people that was affordable.”

Cr Baker rejected the claim and said the former IRC had developed a town plan which was over-ruled by the ULDA.

But she refused to inflame the situation further and said the IRC was committed to working with the State Government on the future of Moranbah.

“There was a town plan,” Cr Baker said. “The issues we’re asking is to call the application in and to work toward an alternative solution. The critical issue is that it is a large-scale mining camp on good quality residential land, and Moranbah is landlocked.”

Local Government Minister David Crisafulli will today meet with IRC representatives.

This is a fight we must win: Pearce

FORMER Labor politician and mining communities advocate Jim Pearce has bolstered the Isaac Regional Council’s call to arms to mount a campaign protesting the MAC camp development in Moranbah.

Mr Pearce said the 400 people at last week’s meeting were a great starting point in venting their passions and concerns, but more was needed.

“What we need to do is continue to broaden our approach every time,” Mr Pearce said.

“Even think of doing other things like demonstrations in front of BHP, in front of Anglo Coal, or just standing there handing out brochures with all the details on it.

“Be prepared to get outside the box and targeting people more with the concerns of the communities, and make sure they’re getting the message.”

Let down by the government of which he was a part, Mr Pearce said he was “suspicious” of the LNP government and its attitude toward mining companies.

“We were badly let down by the Labor government,” he said.

“It almost broke my heart because our campaign was run in such a way it gave the (LNP) government the opportunity to make good for themselves and to say we’ve heard the community, we’re going to insist that mining companies put in at least 20-30% of the workforce and give (workers) a choice to live in these communities.

“I’m very suspicious as to what is going on.

“There are significant issues with what (Jeff Seeney) is saying.

“There’s an attitude of ‘we’re very close to the big end of town and we’ll be working with them to get what they want’.

“I think we’re going to see communities become very outraged with this government, but here is a good opportunity to prove they are listening.”



Mr Pearce said Moranbah needed an unwavering resolve and a winning attitude to ensure the town was not overlooked.

“You have to have an attitude of ‘we’re going to win this’, but we can only win it if everyone has a go,” he said.

“That’s where it’s up to myself and other leaders in the community to… push the issues as much as we can.”

Family homes the best answer for Moranbah

ROSE Vella has seen Moranbah’s highs and lows.

While she admitted the MAC camp was needed to house the growing population, Mrs Vella said it should be built on a mine site to alleviate the pressure families face trying to remain in the town.

In the past 40 years, she has seen young families move to Moranbah to try to make a go of things, but with the short supply of housing, she had also seen them leave.

The influx of workers would also add more pressure on resources and facilities already stretched to their limits, she said.“I liken Moranbah to going through growing pains,” Mrs Vella said.Within the last six to nine months, residents knew of houses being sold but not being told they were being ripped down and replaced with two-storey units.


“There are double storey units being built right next to family homes.”

Mrs Vella said residential houses should be built rather than the 3256-person camp to give families the opportunity to live where they work, and with the increased number of permanent residents, there would be the need to upgrade Moranbah’s facilities.

“The way the town is progressing, young families are coming but the question is whether they will stay when their children go into upper primary or high school because the town doesn’t have the facilities.”

Workers keen to have a chat


COMMUNITY groups are “screaming out” for volunteers and transient workers are desperate for any conversation to beat the boredom and ward off depression.

These observations are from Rebecca, a Moranbah resident who, while delivering Census forms around the town, was overwhelmed by the number of people who invited her to sit, have a chat and spend some time with them.

“There were a younger guy and an older guy that asked me to sit down and watch the football,” Rebecca said.

“There was a woman who said she was lonely and detained me for 15 minutes just for a chat. A lot of people would try and keep me there and have a chat for five minutes or more.

“On Census duty, there had been a couple of people here and there who were depressed, and it really concerned me.”

Rebecca, who wished to be known only by her first name, said there had previously been talk of community engagement plans within the Moranbah township to foster relations with all residents.

“But as far as I know, nothing has been actioned,” she said.

“Sporting clubs would love to have people help out and get involved. But if they live in the camps or the caravan park, they can’t really get involved in the community.”

If you or someone you know may be at risk, Lifeline can help 13 11 14, SANE on 1800 187 263 or beyondblue on 1300 224 636.

Moranbah and Surrounds

Here’s a recent post about Moranbah and Surround on the Property Investing site:

Submitted by ayjae on June 9, 2012 – 6:32pm.
Joined: 07/11/2004

Just a post (a first for me on this forum) on this for anyone interested in an ‘on the ground’ view of what is the flavour of the month around Moranbah and Dysart. I am a local who works for BHP currently living in Dysart and working in Moranbah. My wife and I have been involved with pretty much since it began and have a medium level of investing experience under our belts just beginning to ramp up. We recently moved from Mackay into our first real mining town living (Dysart) after avoiding it for many years instead being part of the FIFO / DIDO crew. After only being settled in Dysart for a couple of months, I was part of the BHP mine which has been put in ‘care of maintenance’ (note this mine has not been closed as reported by many media sources) and been lucky enough to move to BHPs biggest site which will mean being relocated from Dysart to Moranbah. So it is with being on the ground I am happy to share information viewed from a layman’s eyes (disclaimer goes here).

First and foremost; I will note that I am not invested in any mining town at present. I find that there is always potential, and have talked to many people invested in mining areas with very successful returns. However I have seen the opposite also. It comes down to the simple term in general, the higher the risk, the greater the return (and therefore the greater the potential loss). I have told anyone asking about investing particularly in Moranbah and Dysart, as with any investment, calculate your worst case scenario: can you afford for this property to rent for less than half the current value or not rent at all ? Can you afford for the value to drop by half ?

I know a number of people investing, developing and renting property not only in Moranbah but in other Bowen towns. In talking to these people, reading media reports, looking at government and private sector activity for these areas (especially in the Fly-In-Fly-Out consideration), and actually working on the ground for a mine it’s easy to see that the coal resource is particularly strong and the outlook is favourable. Even such things as BHPs issue with strike action has its benefits in the reduced availability of particular blends of coal which can help inflate prices due to scarcity. There are a few things which I think are unique to being on the ground which I have observed over the last few months which are not necessarily easy to see from a distance – which may be important. I see a lot of investing media still advertising Moranbah as a green light for investors – I don’t necessarily disagree, but just as in tough times for standard residential require options, it would appear at present investors will need to be very creative to keep cashflow going the right way, into the bank account!

Some of the things which may not be easy to find out are:

At present, BHP does not lease private residential homes for employees. This differs from town to town, but the majority including Moranbah, Blackwater, and Emerald will not be adding any new lease agreements and it has been removed from the new accommodation agreement. On the ground it doesn’t add up looking at the current vacancy rate. When I am in town things are seriously busy. It’s favourable when a McDonald’s is opening in a town with such a small population – it’s not often that they get it wrong.

BHP is using a major contractor to build some very respectable modular housing to replace its need for having to outsource accommodation. In Dysart (not sure about other towns) the same contractor is also renovating existing houses to a high standard. From what I have seen, these houses are fabricated in one of the capital cities and shipped to the new location. They are very quick to put together. Something of note here, due to the style of housing, they may not necessarily be included in the median stats for these towns, yet will have an impact on overall supply.

One of the biggest providers of camp accommodation, The Mac services group while already having a substantial sized camp on the outskirts of Moranbah, has recently gained approval for one of the biggest mining camps to be built out of Moranbah – this has been opposed by the Mayor and many locals. However, when rents are so high local industry cannot support running business in town, a solution needs to be found. Part of the agreement with the mayor if this camp is built is that a certain number of rooms will be made available for town services which cannot afford to rent and make business profitable. Just a quick note here for those who have not seen a mining camp before, new camp accommodation would be close to a 4 star hotel quality room, with flatscreen TVs and Foxtel – some even have electrically operated blinds ! The advantage also is very good food hall facilities and very respectable watering holes

In conjunction with this BHP has also almost completed its own camp on the outskirts of town accommodating any BHP employees and sometimes contractors who do not live locally.

Rentals in Moranbah appear to be moving very slowly again, however, the rent range for houses with 3 BR now starts at $500 pw – still ranging up to as high as anyone would wish to pay pw for a premium property. Looking at Dysart, things are similar with some rentals being advertised reasonably ‘cheap’ to attract tenants. Also despite the suspension of mining at the Norwich Park Mine (which was accommodated out of Dysart), BHP is now housing new starters for its Peak Downs Mine – previously (and still for the majority) housed in Moranbah. This is located close to halfway between Dysart and Moranbah. So if anything, Dysart is actually gaining more people than less. In my opinion though, the commercial infrastructure does not support this – even to the point with one of the small shopping squares being closed down in favour of building residential units – that’s how great the difference in returns are.

So all in all it makes for adventurous investing. Am really happy for any readers to agree or disagree, or even PM if you have any questions. I don’t claim to be an expert in the area as it is not our location for investing, however I have learnt over the past few months of living in the region, even being a local doesn’t mean it’s easier to pick how to invest locally.

Happy Investing.


Everything that’s really worthwhile in life came to us free — our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence, our love of family and children and friends and country.
All these priceless possessions are free.

Earl Nightingale.

$1.7b new mine might not help investors, Moranbah

Grosvenor, near Moranbah, will see a new $1.7 billion coal mine, according to the Queensland State Government this week, yet this might not help investors in the region.

The Anglo American project will created up to 1,000 new jobs, according to natural resources and mines minister Andrew Cripps.

However, he also said that the approval was based on requirements for Anglo American to provide accommodation answers for local workers.

“The Queensland Government will work closely with the company and the Moranbah community to address key issues such as accommodation availability and infrastructure support,” he said.

“Residential infrastructure is a critical issue for Moranbah and I am pleased that Anglo American is working with other local coal companies to develop and ensure the availability of accommodation and key community facilities.

“I am advised this company will offer a range of accommodation options to its workforce and build more than 50 new houses and townhouses in the Moranbah area.”

Site construction will begin soon, with first development coal production to begin next year, and longwall mining planned for 2016.

The mine is expected to produce up to seven million tonnes per year of high quality hard coking coal.

High-paying mine jobs down under bring big city woes to small towns

MORANBAH, Australia (Reuters) – Despite a six-figure salary, Russel Wise is worried he will soon be homeless after receiving an eviction order from the one-room trailer he has rented since taking a job in an Australian coal mine in 2009.

“There aren’t too many options around,” says Wise, who like thousands of other Australians, was lured to the little town of Moranbah in the coal-rich northeast by high-paying jobs and in the process triggered a housing crisis of big-city proportions.

“The owner wants to build more modern, multi-dwelling units to house more people the mining companies can bring in and out on rotation, so I’ve got to go. Simple as that,” says Wise.

The property crunch engulfing Moranbah and other communities peppering the Bowen Basin, a 60,000-sq-km (23,200-sq-mile) moonscape of open pit mines supplying most of the world’s coal for steel making, is one of a swelling number of downsides associated with the Australian mining boom.

Add to the list rising food prices, constant truck traffic, outbreaks of sexually transmitted diseases and near-non-existent health care to name a few, according to town residents, health professionals, mine workers and community advocates interviewed by Reuters.

Jetting in employees on charter flights from mostly large cities to work 12-hour shifts for two weeks straight and then fly them home for a week off has long been commonplace in Australia’s remote mining locations, where no towns exist.

But the growing demand for commodities in Asia is encouraging mining companies to dig deeper and faster than ever before near established communities like Moranbah, requiring thousands more workers than local townships can supply.

Mining company executives say they are trying to attract more employees to move permanently to the towns with their families to alleviate some of the problems associated with mobile work forces, but it is proving a hard sell.

A recent survey of mine workers suggested at least half have no interest in relocating permanently to mining towns, which can be lacking in social outlets much beyond a local pub and fast-food restaurants.

“This place is okay when you’re working, but on a pyjama day I’m bored stiff,” says Richard Spaffey, who is sub-contracted to a mining company based in his hometown of Perth, 3,600 km (2,200 miles) away, referring to a day off. “I’ll head into town and the ratio of men to women will be fifty to one.”


A prostitution advocacy group, called the Scarlet Alliance, is appealing to the government for help in servicing the mining communities, promoting regulated sex work as a safe alternative to unsupervised liaisons that can cause the spread of disease.

By one government estimate, Australia will need an extra 89,000 mine workers over the next five years.

As a result, mining towns like Moranbah are bracing for even greater population growth around the mines.

One of Australia’s richest people, Andrew Forrest, who made billions mining iron ore, is heading a group aiming to train 50,000 Australian Aboriginals to work the mines.

Also, despite opposition from unions, Prime Minister Julia Gillard last month said more than 1,700 foreign workers could be brought in to work constructing one mine alone under special visas, underscoring the sector’s dire need for labor and opening the door to further jobs immigration.

In the United States and across Europe, jobs fairs promoting work in Australia’s resources sector already draw thousands of attendees.

“What this says loud and clear is that it is important for resources sector companies to be able to offer accommodation options,” says Michael Roche, chief executive of the Queensland Resource Council, which lobbies on behalf of coal mining.

Australia is also easing immigration rules for farm workers applying for visas from Pacific islands like Papua New Guinea and Fiji to compensate for an exodus of workers from sugarcane fields to better paying mining jobs.,0,5206084.story


Miners’ camp plan a ‘mistake’

ISAAC Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker will fight the proposed workers’ camp earmarked for prime residential land within Moranbah’s urban footprint.

In a fiery speech to 400 Moranbah residents at the community centre on Thursday, Cr Baker declared the MAC Group’s mining camp a destructive, illogical and irresponsible development that would threaten the future of one of Australia’s greatest coal mining communities.

“The message for the government is simple. You can’t solve a housing crisis by taking the last remaining residential land for family housing, and stick Queensland’s biggest camp on it,” Cr Baker said. “You can put a camp in numerous places outside our urban footprint, but this residential land will be lost forever if this irresponsible development proceeds.”

After the Urban Land Development Authority approved the camp, which will house 3200 people, late last week, Cr Baker wrote to Premier Campbell Newman asking him to intervene.

“The Newman Government needs to call this development in, allow the proponents to work on solutions with the council, and re-decide the application in a way that meets legitimate community expectations, supports sustainable industry growth, rather than stomping on the community’s future hopes and aspirations,” she said.

“I hope the State Government can see that it is a big mistake to allow our community to be trampled by a distant bureaucracy (ULDA).”

Cr Baker dismissed speculation that resource projects were relying on this development to house their workers in order to proceed with mining developments.

“Relocating this development would in no way impact resource company arrangements for their workforce.”