A Pilbara council at the coalface of WA's resources boom has warned that essential services such as rubbish collection are at risk because some of its lower-paid workers cannot afford to live in the region.
Town of Port Hedland chief executive Mal Osborne said there was a growing exodus of council operational staff who did not get housing as part of their employment package.
Mr Osborne said the council had forked out $2.5 million a year to lease 16 properties for high-level and skilled staff in Port Hedland's brutal rental market, where landlords charge on average $2300 a week.
The council owns 42 homes but needs another 58 over the next four years to cope with an ever-increasing workload.
Mr Osborne said that, like any other Pilbara business, local government struggled to attract and retain people without offering accommodation.
"We've lost staff to the point where they've come into a manager's office crying that they have to leave town because they simply can't get accommodation," he said.
Mr Osborne flagged the possibility of building a temporary mining-style workers camp to ease the burden on some of his 120 operational staff but said it was not a viable long-term solution.
He said if the housing woes were not addressed soon, services could be sacrificed.
"We're at breaking point in terms of not being able to potentially provide the services that the community sees as essential, and that could be as basic as collecting garbage or reticulation," he said.
East Pilbara Shire chief executive Allen Cooper said that in Newman, where rents average $2212 a week, the shire relied somewhat on miners' partners whose husband or wife already had housing.
"We get put in an awkward spot when there is a marriage separation or when we need emergency accommodation," he said.
Labor's Pilbara candidate Kelly Howlett said some operational staff living in public housing could soon be on the street because their wages exceeded the Department of Housing income threshold.
Ms Howlett, who is mayor of Port Hedland, said if staff were evicted they could not afford rent on the open market and would likely leave the region.According to the Shire of Roebourne, which includes Karratha, services were not at risk. Chief executive Chris Adams admitted high rents were a "significant concern" but turnover was not sufficient to warrant a threat to services.
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