A 500-STRONG coal mine workers camp in Blackwater has won a last-minute reprieve from closure by the Central Highlands Regional Council.
After council confirmed it would not renew the lease on Rosewood camp, due to expire at the end of April, the Department of Environment and Resource Management stepped in and offered a 12-month lifeline.
“DERM recognises the Rosewood accommodation camp currently provides accommodation for a large number of workers in the mining industry in the region,” a spokesperson said.
“DERM has agreed to provide Qantac with a site lease until April 30, 2012, to allow them to secure an alternate site.
“The department, ULDA and council agree the camp has to move location in the medium to long-term to be consistent with the proposed ULDA development scheme.”
Mayor Peter Maguire said the move was “not unexpected”, but stood by his comment
earlier in the day Rosewood was “a disgraceful facility” and a blight on the Blackwater landscape for its continual failure to gain the necessary operational approvals from council.
“Given the ramifications for a lot of people, this was not unexpected by DERM,” he said.
“That camp is a disgraceful facility… it never had any proper approvals from the council and we want no further part of it.”
Blackwater Community Progress Group chairman Kev Cracknell said he was absolutely appalled by the State Government department’s actions.
“I am in absolute disbelief,” he said.
“It has been left up to the 11th hour and then Rosewood is crying foul about where they’re going to do with their residents?
“It (Rosewood) was put there for a purpose, a construction project several years ago, and the arrangement has been taken advantage of ever since.
“I’m just amazed that a lease when it’s due... we see the inability of a camp provider to run their business, and see the needs of the residents and clients fall back on to the community for another 12 months.
“We have no objection to the people who reside in the camp. The issue we have is with the camp provider and the blatant disregard for the rules and the community they wish to be a part of.”
Cr Maguire said Qantac had been told 15 months ago there would be no lease renewal.
“Our understanding was the camp was initially established as a temporary facility,” he said.
“That temporary use then became very long term, without proper planning and building applications being made.”
The DERM spokesperson said Qantac “will still need to abide by existing guidelines that govern the site as set by council”.