THE main contractor for the upgrade of the Tindal RAAF base expects about 40 of its managers will be housed in Katherine for at least the next four years.
The Department of Defence has responded to fears Katherine may miss out from the expected economic boost from the half billion dollar project.
Many local people were surprised to discover accommodation for 150 construction workers is being built at Tindal as part of the project.
The department revealed it had told Katherine Town Council of its decision to build an accommodation camp early last year “and during subsequent industry briefings in 2015 and 2016 that were held in both Katherine and in Darwin”.
A Defence department spokeswoman said the workforce to support the project is expected to peak at more than 200 workers.
“Of which a significant number are expected to be sourced from the Katherine region and beyond,” the spokeswoman said last week.
Project documents for the Air Combat Facilities Project state “much of the construction workforce will come from outside the Katherine area”.
“The camp is to ensure that any shortfalls in local accommodation can be met and that the project is not affected by seasonal accommodation shortages.
“The camp will also ensure the project does not exacerbate accommodation shortages and impact the local tourist trade now and into the future,” the spokeswoman said. Chief contractor Lendlease has placed job advertisements offering positions on a fly in, fly out basis.
The defence spokeswoman said Lendlease began renting accommodation in Katherine in March this year.
”The overall workforce is expected to form a valuable part of the community over the next four years, providing economic benefit to Katherine through both direct employment on the projects and through indirect means such as day-to-day living activities and expenses including shopping, fuel, dining and sporting activities,” the spokeswoman said.
While there has been at least one meeting between contractors and Katherine region firms, there is still a belief most of “the business” will be directed to Darwin.
“Defence and Lendlease as the managing contractor will continue to work with local bodies to facilitate the engagement of local subcontractors and suppliers on the project, which is also likely to deliver long-term economic benefits to the region,” the defence spokeswoman said.
“Lendlease has received a number of responses from local trades and suppliers.”
The Defence Department expects to spend $400-$500 million upgrading Tindal.