Workers’ accommodation vital for harvest and cyclone Seroja recovery, say Mid West leaders

Phoebe PinMidwest Times
Seroja damaged homes and businesses across the Mid West.
Camera IconSeroja damaged homes and businesses across the Mid West. Credit: Simon Hydzik/7NEWS

The promise of a bumper harvest has kept cyclone Seroja-affected farmers busy over the past six months, but local governments are now concerned shortages of labour and accommodation will delay recovery efforts.

Homes and businesses from 16 local government areas were damaged on April 11, with between 25mm and 80mm of rain dumped across the Mid West during the storm.

Farmers had little time to clear the debris left in Seroja’s wake before racing to start seeding.

In Perenjori, Shire president Chris King said the prospect of a plentiful harvest had kept locals’ minds off the trauma of the cyclone.

GEN Cyclone damage at Perenjori. Shire President Chris King. Pic. Iain Gillespie The West Australian
Camera IconGEN Cyclone damage at Perenjori. Shire President Chris King. Pic. Iain Gillespie The West Australian Credit: The West Australian

“People are looking forward to the harvest and to the hope that next year is a better one when they can get new sheds and houses built,” he said.

“There are still a lot of trees and fences down that will need repairing over time and very few sheds have been repaired or replaced, but there are a couple of houses just starting to get repaired now.”

The town’s iconic, still-operating 102-year-old Perenjori Hotel was ripped to shreds by cyclonic winds and debris, with Cr King saying the pub still bore the “very visible sign of destruction”.

Shire of Chapman Valley chief executive Maurice Battilana said his primary focus since the cyclone had been looking after the mental health of his community.

“You can replace physical assets but you’ve just got to make sure that the mental health and wellbeing is OK,” he said.

Several homes in Mingenew were all but blown away by Seroja, but Shire chief executive Nils Hay said the town has been buzzing with energy and enthusiasm amidst the destruction.

GEN Cyclone damage at Perenjori. Pic. Iain Gillespie The West Australian
Camera IconGEN Cyclone damage at Perenjori. Pic. Iain Gillespie The West Australian Credit: The West Australian

“I think we have been fortunate that as much as the cyclone did a fair bit of damage ... the season has been very kind,” he said.

“I am aware there is still work to be done in terms of repairing properties and finishing off insurance claims ... but the fact that it looks like we are going to have a reasonable harvest definitely takes some of the edge off.

“We have had a really good wildflower season this year as well, so the town has been really busy and we’ve had a lot of tourists come through.”

Shire of Northampton chief executive Garry Keeffe said repairs and rebuilds were progressing “slowly”, with many residents waiting for insurance claims to be finalised.

He said the biggest “stumbling block” to the recovery process was the State Government taking “too long” to deliver on its promise to help accommodate workers involved in repairs.

“We can’t get workers up here because they can’t get accommodation,” he said.

“The State Government is working on it but it’s been six months and they are still working on it.”

The roof to Northampton's Railway Tavern was ripped apart by the cyclone
Camera IconThe roof to Northampton's Railway Tavern was ripped apart by the cyclone

In July, Northampton received eight caravans from the government to house residents whose homes were declared uninhabitable, with Mr Keeffe saying all were still living in the motor homes.

A State Government spokesperson said a model to provide workers’ accommodation to cyclone-affected communities was “progressing”.

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