BIG CHANGE: Miles Chamber of Commerce's John Hoffmann, Kylie Bourne and David Sweetapple.
BIG CHANGE: Miles Chamber of Commerce's John Hoffmann, Kylie Bourne and David Sweetapple. Matthew Newton

Camp closure a 'turning point' for Miles

THE Miles and Districts Chamber of Commerce says the town has reached a turning point with the announcement of the closure of Origin's Condabri workers camp - but there's still a lot of work to be done before the town recovers to its pre-boom state.

News of the workers' camp closure was formally announced at a meeting between Origin and the chamber at a meeting last Thursday night, where Origin regional manager Tim Ogilvie outlined the company's progress with transitioning their operational workers into towns, and provided a rough timeline of the camp's closure.

The chamber was told August 31 is the date by which the company hopes to have closed the camp.

Chamber president John Hoffmann said he hoped the impending closure will bring some positivity back into town, and value back into Miles' real estate market.

The chamber began meeting with Origin executives in July 2016 in regards to the closure of the Condabri camp in accordance with the company's original approvals, and were aided in their discussions by Western Downs Regional Council and Warrego MP Ann Leahy.

"These camps were designed for out in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of kilometres from towns,” he said.

"They should never have been allowed in developed, regional town areas.”

"It's all about the economic benefits to the community, as well as the social benefits - and not just for us but for the workforce as well,” chamber committee member Kylie Bourne said.

Chamber committee member David Sweetapple said the knock-on effect from the camp's closure would be significant - with some sectors already picking up business.

But with damage to the town's economy done over the course of several years, fixing it won't happen overnight.

Figures compiled from Realestate.com by the chamber show the median sale price of property in Miles over a 20 year period reaching a high of around $320,000 in 2015, dropping to just $200,000 in 2016, with less than five sales over the last two years.

At the rental market's worst point in the July-September quarter of 2015, vacancy rates in Miles hit 45%.

Now, with Origin moving permanent staff into towns throughout the course of 2017 and other businesses employing more staff, Ray White Miles' vacancy rate for their listed properties has dropped to just 8%.

That doesn't count a number of homes and apartments that have been foreclosed by banks and are presently unable to be rented out.

Based off reports that Origin's permanent staff are taking up 12 month leases at current rental prices, it's unlikely there will be any dramatic change in prices over the short term, but the long term outlook is more optimistic.

The chamber is also confident that the Stong and Sustainable Resource Bill, currently before State Parliament, will ensure the kind of devastation seen in Miles will not happen again in the future.

"It's positive. I think the effort and the relationships and the conversations that everybody's been having, particularly over the last six months, it's all coming to a head and we're looking forward to the next steps,” Mrs Bourne said.

"There'll be more challenges, but we're ready to step up and keep helping to work through them and realise some positive outcomes.”


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