ANY doubts about Rio Tinto’s future in Weipa have surely been quashed after the mining giant last week announced a major housing plan for the town.
Up to 28 new houses will be built over the next four years, while another 20 homes owned by Rio Tinto will be renovated.
The company will also offer up a number of vacant homes to existing employees.
Further, Cape York Weekly understands that Rio Tinto is also in talks with the state about opening up land for 16 new government homes.
It’s the shot in the arm needed for the Weipa housing market, which has struggled to keep up with demand.
“This is a multi-year plan over the next four or five years with the aim to build seven new houses per year,” said Rio Tinto Weipa general manager Shona Markham.
“We know that housing remains a key issue for the Weipa community and we are committed to helping address the shortage in town.
“We also want to release land for other parties to build on, but that may come with conditions so we are not selling land for people to sit on.
“What I like about this plan is that we’re aiming for an achievable number and we’re also improving the current housing market with renovations.”
Rio Tinto owns a number of vacant properties that have been taken out of the housing pool as they are deemed to be not suitable for the company to maintain or renovate.
Those houses will be offered to existing staff first, then the general public if they are not snapped up.
“We think there is an appetite for those houses for people who might want to fix them up themselves or find an affordable home,” Ms Markham said.
“I think the message to come from this is that Weipa is critically important to Rio Tinto’s operations and we’re not going anywhere.”
Weipa Town Authority chair Michael Rowland said it was a positive move.
“It says to me that Rio Tinto is invested in Weipa’s future and that’s a good thing,” he said.
“They wouldn’t be building these new houses if they were planning on leaving.”
All the new houses are likely to be built in Golf Links Estate.
Rio Tinto has also increased its allowances for those living and working in Weipa in a bid to improve retention and attract more employees.
Ms Markham said the mining company had also worked to open up more seats to the public on its charter flights, particularly in the school holidays.