Farmers invest in FIFO housing renovations for workforce amid statewide housing shortage

Farmers in Western Australia’s horticulture industry have invested millions in repurposing accommodation formerly used by aerial workers (FIFO) to house staff on farms amid the current housing shortage.

Myalup-based Graham Rose, WA’s largest producer of broccolini, has spent $1.9 million renovating dongas and commercial kitchen space to be used as on-farm accommodation for its workers.

When completed, there will also be a fully functional laundry room and plenty of room to store food – all within walking distance of the packing shed.

But Mr Rose said having on-site accommodation wasn’t just about being close to work – it was also about providing comfort for his employees, who hail from Pacific Island countries.

The resort has 40 private rooms, each with a bathroom, wardrobe and desk.(Provided)

“They can basically live and have their own little environment and probably feel more like family,” he said.

“If you look at foreigners from developing countries coming to this region, then this is probably the best foreign aid you could ever give people, just because [the money] goes to the real people on the ground.”

A bespectacled man with short black hair standing in a fruit plantation.
Roger Fahl says Fruitico has struggled to find and house workers.(ABC News: Jessica Hayes)

Fruitico invests $5 million

WA’s largest table grape grower, Fruitico, has operations in the Peel and Kimberley regions and will soon expand to Gascoyne.

The company plans to invest $5 million to build similar donga-style accommodation at one of its farms in Waroona.

Chief Executive Roger Fahl told ABC Country Hour the investment was a big call.

“We need to be able to have staff somewhere and we want to house them in the area so they are accessible to our farmers, but also to try to keep some of that money in the local district,” he said. .

Mr. Fahl said it was not possible for the average small farm in the state to build this type of housing.

“There needs to be work with the state government in places, whether it’s Manjimup, Donnybrook, Broome, Carnarvon and some of those areas, where maybe the government can also step in and help with the implementation. place,” he said.

“At least help with the creation of community-style housing for workers in some of these places.”

Man wearing a cap standing in front of the harvest receiving site, with a tractor and silos in the background.
Mick Daw says CBH has upgraded its housing in the state 15 times in the past five years.(ABC Rural: Tara De Landgraft)

Quality and quantity

In the grain industry, expectations regarding the quality of housing required for workers are changing.

During harvest season, CBH Group hires approximately 2,000 workers for a six-week period.

COO Mick Daw said the company is working to improve its sites to meet employee expectations.

“People want their own room, they want their own ablution room,” he said.

“As well as that, we want to make sure there are adequate facilities on top of that, with [spaces to] spend their free time and also prepare meals, that sort of thing.

“So there’s, there’s a big focus on improving the quality, but also the quantity of accommodations that we have in the state.”

Michael A. Bynum