Sweet potato farm wants more worker accommodation

farm worker accommodation
McCrystal Agricultural Services wants to expand its accommodation for farm workers at South Kolan.

The owners of a South Kolan property used primarily for growing and packing sweet potatoes want to expand farm worker accommodation.

McCrystal Agricultural Services recently purchased a property at 2473 Gin Gin Road and plan to build accommodation and amenities over three stages to cater for up to 55 workers.

The business recently submitted a development application with Council.

Council planning and development portfolio spokesman Cr Ross Sommerfeld said the first stage proposed to utilise existing onsite accommodation and amenities for 12 farm workers.

“Stages two and three, which cater to an additional 25 and 18 workers respectively, propose the provision of demountable buildings within an existing large farm shed and additional amenities to be located near the shed,” Cr Sommerfeld said.

“The application provides for an existing kitchen and dining room to cater to the expansion undertaken in stages two and three.”

Employment for locals and backpackers

Cr Sommerfeld said McCrystal Agricultural Services routinely employed 15 local residents and a similar number of backpackers.

“This core group of workers is supplemented by seasonal workers, primarily from Vanuatu, who are recruited under the Australian Government’s Pacific Labour Scheme,” he said.

“The scheme is an important part of Australia’s economic relationship with Pacific island nations with workers’ savings and remittances contributing to enhanced housing and education outcomes for participant’s families.”

Cr Sommerfeld said the applicant had submitted that on-farm accommodation assists in maximising the economic benefits to workers.

“Additionally, the property is 25km from the Bundaberg CBD and 1.2km from South Kolan which offers limited convenient accommodation opportunities for the on-farm workers,” he said.

“This application seeks to obtain approvals to facilitate the required accommodation of approximately 55 workers through the peak periods of December to February and lesser numbers through shoulder periods of September to November and March to May.”

Cr Sommerfeld said the proponents also wished to relocate their nursery near Sharon, which facilitates the growing of sweet potato runners.

The application is currently under consideration by Council planning staff.