Development of caravan park in Mallee to tackle labor shortage on the farm, offer accommodation to seasonal workers

A Victorian caravan park in the north west of the country is being converted into accommodation for seasonal workers to address the labor shortage on farms.

A $5.94 million outlay, with the state government contributing $1 million, will enable the construction of 40 cabins at The Palms Caravan Park in Mildura.

The development will house up to 320 seasonal workers, many of whom will be from abroad.

The cabins are self contained with two ensuites, a kitchenette and shared cooking, dining and recreation areas.

The caravan park will also organize the transport of workers to and from work and manage their visa requirements, which would ease the pressure on the farmers.

“Everything they need to make them happy is there,” says developer John Pearce.

Mr Pearce said the seasonal worker accommodation would be built in a new area separated from the rest of the caravan park.

He said there would be a full-time mechanic to service the fleet of transportation vehicles, a laundry service and areas where residents could hold meetings or church services.

A gray cabin, in front of it is a speed limit sign in the shared zone
The workers’ accommodation is separated from the caravan park(ABC Mildura-Swan Hill: Tamara Clark)

Pearce said the facility would be “nearly identical” to the one built in Paringa, South Australia, which was originally intended to accommodate backpackers camping in the city.

“Within a year, it quickly evolved into a home for the Pacific Islanders there,” he said.

In addition to providing housing and transport for employees, cultural support will also be available.

Pearce said setting up the Paringa facility was an “eye-opener” in terms of the support the newcomers needed to settle in, including basic things like setting up cell phones.

“Lots of guys repeat [workers] and help the other guys too,” he said.

Pearce said people were initially skeptical of the model and that he was concerned about how the wider community would react.

However, he says there is “nothing but praise for it”.

Potential for Expansion

Ali Cupper, an independent member of Mildura, says the accommodation can be offered to farmers at a very good price with little red tape.

A smiling woman wearing a black blazer leans in an open doorway
Independent Mildura member Ali Cupper is pleased that the state government is helping to eliminate bureaucracy.(Delivered: Ali Cupper)

“It’s literally a full-time job, just trying to get your head around it [visa] requirements and make sure everything is in order,” he said.

Ms. Cupper says Sunraysia’s agriculture generates more than $1.13 billion, but the region routinely has a six- or seven-thousand-bed housing shortage.

She says this model lowers the reputational risk of overcrowding in guest houses, which discourages people from coming to the region.

Ms. Cupper says there is potential to scale up and expand this model.

“We have a real opportunity to build those supplies, so we’re not going to continue to struggle with this problem that we just seem to talk about but never seem to solve, which is the lack of suitable accommodation,” he said.

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