10 May 2023

No vacancy: Rental, child care shortage hurting Weipa

| Matt Nicholls
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The town is capable of growth and there are a number of vacant job positions, but nowhere to accommodate new arrivals.

Weipa Real Estate has zero rental properties available, while Western Cape Real Estate has just three that are ready to lease – all of them units.

The waiting list at Cape Kids continues to grow and some parents are being forced to stay at home with their children.

Michael Rowland, the chairman of the Weipa Town Authority, said it was a cause for concern.

“This is something that we’ve had a few conversations about,” he said last week.

“Child care is a major problem and there’s no obvious solution that is in our control.”

Rio Tinto is the owner of Cape Kids and recently expanded the child care facility to accommodate more children, but it hasn’t solved the problem.

“People want to put the blame on Rio Tinto but I don’t think it is entirely their responsibility,” Mr Rowland said.

“There are a number of major employers in town that need to come to the table.”

Mr Rowland said the problem was unlikely to be solved quickly.

“This is why we want to be a normalised community,” he said.

“If we were a normalised town it would be up to the council to be making decisions on social issues like more housing and more child care,” the WTA chairman said.

“There’s definitely a need for another housing development.

“But even if land was opened up tomorrow it would take years to see the results.”

Weipa Real Estate’s Deb Duffy said the big winners of the rental shortage were the investors.

“Rent prices are going up and they’ll keep going up if there is a lack of rentals,” she said.

“Whenever we get a property to rent we get half a dozen applicants straight away and they never sit empty for very long.”

Ms Duffy said locals were now having to buy properties in Weipa to secure housing.

“The only guarantee is to buy.”

Mr Rowland said the WTA’s own staff had faced housing issues.

“We’ve got one (employee) who has to find a place to live because their lease is expiring and they are finding it difficult,” he said.

“We have people that want to live here and want to work here and it’s frustrating that we can’t accommodate them.”

One school teacher told Cape York Weekly that her husband was a stay-at-home dad because they could not find child care in town.

“It’s frustrating for him because he wants to work and get out of the house a bit more,” she said.

“It’s not something you really think of when you move somewhere – you just assume that you can get child care in a town the size of Weipa.”

Other regional communities spend thousands of dollars each year trying to entice new residents.

Weipa has no shortage of people willing to make the move.

Vance Wallin, the president of the Western Cape Chamber of Commerce, said housing and child care had been a big issue for a long time in Weipa, but urged action to be taken to address the problem.

“We don’t want to be a town that turns away people,” he said.

“It’s great that Weipa is doing well during the pandemic and that there is growth, but we need to be able to accommodate it.”

Mr Wallin said the Queensland government was one of the biggest employers in town and urged Member for Cook Cynthia Lui to involve herself in the discussion.

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