MACRO Realty Developments

It’s not a Ponzi, it’s the economy

Oct 22, 2016  View More Articles

Recently MACRO was accused of running a Ponzi scheme, which stemmed from a blackmail threat that we quite correctly rejected. We are forcefully fighting back against these unsubstantiated claims that are completely without merit. This has created a diversion from our core mission; to create proper housing, sustainable and thriving communities in the Pilbara, so I thought it best to begin blogging about our journey towards meeting the goals of our initiative and providing some insight into the process of getting there.

It’s the economy; not a Ponzi.

A chicken and egg situation of there not being enough housing to close what was always meant to be temporary mining camps, but not enough awareness or decisive action to make the change. People who suggest that it is time to forget about building more housing in the Pilbara and making it liveable with the amenity that city folk take for granted; are clearly not in touch with the issues (and lunacy) associated with keeping an ongoing Fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) workforce of some 60,000 people servicing Australia’s ongoing resource projects.

To put a value on real estate in an emerging market and new cities is difficult, but in the case of the Pilbara, perhaps we should start with the value of a life and refer to the findings of the last two parliamentary inquiries into the highest suicide and divorce rates being in this region.

The reports don’t begin to quantify the incidents, they refer to what seems to be regularly occurring at the workplaces but really, who commits suicide at work? Even the hangings in the mining camps come prisoner camps are being silenced, so you can imagine the actual numbers. “Add up all the ones that aim for the trees on those wide open roads” one former FIFO worker said to me. “They usually do it because their missus left them or they’re being bullied’ a Pilbara fly-in-fly-out worker of more than 20 years elaborated.

This is not a situation like you hear about in China, where cities are built for foreseeable future demand, it is not a case of ‘build it and they will come’, it’s actually a case of build it because they’re already there and are losing the will to live. Or to quote the words of another fly-in-fly-out worker, ‘are being put up in dogboxes’. Thousands of workers struggling to keep their relationships together by working away ‘up North’, and mining companies not wanting to pay the hardship money or overtime that they used to, because of a reduction in resource prices – so there’s financial stress to add to the mix. Isn’t it just time to use a local workforce and just say no to FIFO?

Oh, and put the cities where the jobs are!

This is not a new concept. A Pilbara Cities vision was announced by our government in 2009; propelled and funded by all Australians under the Royalties for Regions program established in 2012, but in recent times, haphazardly executed to the detriment of many investors, stalling perfectly good developments and causing heartache for all involved. A recent closure of three mining camps in the Pilbara (with great reluctance from the associated mining companies) shows progress, but seriously – google Warawandu, Port Haven, The Landings and Gateway Village and ask yourself; why? There’s around 4000 lives being camp controlled in the heart of Hedland and Newman while businesses and investors battle to stay afloat; the occupants get watched for suicidal tendencies and ‘incidents’ are squashed. “We are told to have some respect for the families and not say anything”…..seriously? Who’s interest is that in?

If it were my family I would be outraged, that no one else is outraged.

Who’s letting this happen? We might be chuckling at the Hillary / Trump saga in the US, but let’s have a proper look at what’s going on down under. Starting with the North West ‘the engine room of Australia’s economy’, to quote the Pilbara Cities Blueprint.

It’s the economy, not a Ponzi…..

And a very slow reaction to it by our political powers. Hopefully, the same government that saw sense in conducting two parliamentary inquiries into the mental health impacts of FIFO work arrangements will step up, and place a value on human life. Hopefully the relevant findings and recommendations of The impact of FIFO work practices on mental health, final report No.5 dated June 2015 will be interpreted and actioned. (The report findings along with my submission to it, can be found at As much of ‘a delicate tip-toe’ as it is, here are the relevant findings and recommendations.

Finding 1 Page 6

FIFO work practices are part of the Western Australian work system and touch many
families in Western Australia. There is a concern amongst the general community that
changes are needed to make FIFO work practices more amenable to family life and the
mental health needs of workers.

Finding 8 Page 33

The Committee finds that the demographic profile of the resource sector FIFO
workforce reflects an increased risk of suicide compared to the general population as a

Finding 9 Page 37

The Committee finds that a person does not need to have a diagnosable mental illness
in order to consider suicide. People suffering from the stressful events of ordinary life
may be vulnerable to suicide.

Finding 12 Page 47

The Committee finds that FIFO accommodation is qualitatively different to private
accommodation, and is similar to a workplace. It should therefore be subject to the
same occupational safety and health regulations as a workplace.

Recommendation 18 Page 89

That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensure the Code of Practice on FIFO work
arrangements requires the minimisation of motelling accommodation practices, and
where possible, its abolition. The Code of Practice should also include measures to
reduce the negative impacts of the practice of motelling.

Recommendation 19 Page 92

That the Drug and Alcohol Office initiates an inquiry into possible harmful drinking
habits and alcohol consumption of FIFO workers, and the impact on their mental

Finding 22 Page 70

There is some recognition by some resource companies that roster compression is
critical in fatigue management. This recognition should extend to the impact of fatigue
on mental health and wellbeing.

Recommendation 13 Page 71

That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensures the Code of Practice on FIFO work
arrangements includes an explicit acknowledgement of the impact of fatigue on mental
health, and controls for managing its consequences and impact.

Recommendation 26 Page 124

That the Mental Health Commission (Drug and Alcohol Office) conduct further research
into the use of illicit drugs by FIFO workers, particularly the use of short‐acting illicit
and new synthetic substances, and the impact on mental health.

Finding 23 Page 77

That a continued proactive approach by regulators is required with regard to assessing
companies’ complaints processes for bullying and harassment.

Finding 24 Page 78

That working a FIFO roster can increase strain in personal relationships, particularly
within families.

Finding 28 Page 98

Many smaller contracting companies told the Committee that they would prefer to
offer their staff lower compression rosters (such as 2 weeks on, one week off, or eventime
rosters), but that they are unable to do so due to the terms stipulated by the
company that let the contract.

Finding 32 Page 112

The Committee finds that FIFO workers and their families should have access to an
induction or on‐boarding program to better prepare them for the realities of the FIFO
lifestyle. Such programs should ensure that families are made aware of the support
services available to them, including EAPs, parenting and family support programs, and

Finding 33 Page 113

Due to the culture and male‐dominated nature of the resources industry, many
workers are hesitant to seek help for mental health issues, and may only contact a
telephone employee assistance program when at crisis point. It is therefore important
that a mosaic of services with multiple entry points is available to assist workers.

Finding 38 Page 123

Industry must develop clear and uniform procedures and policies for managing suicides
and attempted suicides that occur on site, either in the workplace or in the
accommodation facilities.

Recommendation 15 Page 77

That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensures improved anti‐bullying procedures
be included in the Code of Practice on FIFO work arrangements, and that greater
capacity be given to DMP to pursue and prosecute bullying claims.

Recommendation 16 Page 80

That the Minister for Mines and Petroleum ensures the Code of Practice on FIFO work
arrangements emphasises the importance of providing high quality, reliable and
accessible communications technology in FIFO accommodation villages.

Finding 25 Page 82

The Committee acknowledges the importance of sound financial education for FIFO
workers, particularly in the current volatile employment environment. Financial
education should be included by companies in their onboarding/induction programs for
all staff.

Finding 26 Page 94

The inquiry found that accommodation facilities for FIFO workers are often selfcontained,
highly regulated and subject to considerable control measures. It is not clear
that all control measures are required for worker health and safety. The Committee
questions whether such high levels of control when workers are off‐shift and in the
accommodation facilities are necessary.

Recommendation 20 Page 94

Industry should assess whether all of the controls applied to workers in the FIFO
accommodation facilities are necessary in terms of health and safety. The level of
appropriate control in the accommodation facilities should be addressed in the Code of
Practice on FIFO work arrangements.

Finding 41 Page 135

Where possible, FIFO workers should be encouraged and enabled to engage with the
local host community. This has benefits for the mental health of workers, and for the
local community.

Recommendation 27 Page 135

Where possible, FIFO workers should be encouraged and enabled to engage with the
local host community.

Recommendation 28 Page 135

Mining companies should engage with local host communities to ensure that the
placement of accommodation facilities brings benefits to local communities, as well as
benefits to the mental health of workers.

Recommendation 29 Page 136

That the Department of State Development investigate mechanisms to encourage
resource companies to invest in providing workers the opportunity to reside in local
communities in order to improve mental health.

Finding 42 Page 137

Evidence to the Committee showed that living in a local community significantly
benefits mental health and wellbeing. The Committee feels that these benefits of living
in a community far outweigh considerations such as the possible impact of a 30 minute
bus ride to the worksite.

Recommendation 30 Page 138

The Department of State Development should develop a strategic plan for the decision making
process for the placement of FIFO accommodation camps, which must include
consideration of workers’ mental health and access to local communities. Such a plan
should include a community impact assessment.


My conclusion; to have some respect for some of Australia’s hardest workers that are tasked with supplying the world with commodities at the lowest possible prices. Systematically close the camps that are in the earmarked cities to preserve the Pilbara Cities Vision, stimulate the North West economy, and save lives. Mining camps were supposed to be for project construction and overflow only; the time for transition is now.
Ponzi, economy, or taking the….mickey?

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