Low-cost accommodation is essential for young travellers in need of a home base to find work, but ‘budget’ does have not to mean low quality.
Budget accommodation Essential to Support Workers
Many farms, especially fruit or vegetable farms, need to attract seasonal workers during peak times. Some of these workers may live in the local community- especially regulars that return each year. However a large proportion of labourers will be backpackers, students or grey nomads that travel to regions where crops are in their peak season, and they all need somewhere to stay.
Backpackers are well serviced in some regions with ‘working hostels’. These places have a focus on supporting working holidaymakers by providing low-cost accommodation in a communal living arrangement.
Not Everywhere Has Hostels
Regions that have short seasonal bursts may not have enough demand over the year for hostels to exist. Where there are farms with long seasons or regions with multiple crops over the year, hostels are more likely to be available. The buildings are often converted from a previous purpose and are adapted to share-living, and while there are regulations to enforce minimum health and safety standards, the quality varies considerably.
In some cases multi-purpose accommodation can be the answer. If an accommodation is suitable for tourists as well as seasonal workers, the boost to occupancy can make the difference between being viable or not. The style and standard of that accommodation is often the crucial factor. Backpackers are sometimes not that fussy about the quality of the accommodation so long as it is cheap; they often consider it part of the experience. But domestic tourists, particularly couples or families, will expect a decent standard, even when it is a budget option. However, a lesser cost will only offset a lower standard to certain degree.
Like many regional caravan and tourist parks, the Tumbarumba Caravan Park is owned by the local shire council. In 2019 the Snowy Valleys Council recognised the need to support workers travelling into the area by investing in budget accommodation at the Park. This has been welcomed by workers at local horticulture operations, particularly for blueberries and winegrapes. However, to ensure they did not alienate non-working visitors to the town attracted by the beautiful mountain scenery, the Council invested in good-quality budget accommodation.
The mining industry is well known for providing transportable accommodation in remote areas, and standards have to be high enough to satisfy anAustralian ‘fly-in fly-out’ workforce for their day-to-day living. As the Australian mining boom of a few years ago diminished, infrastructure such as on-site accommodation was no longer needed, both used and brand new, and has found its way onto the general market.
Based on ‘donga’ style buildings, supported by a strong metal superstructure and set onto substantial groundworks, the complex built by the Snowy Valleys Council ticks budget and quality boxes. Each small bedroom has either a bunk or double bed and its own ensuite. Lockable storage cupboards are built in, along with an air-conditioning unit, a bar fridge and a TV. Each is ideal for friends travelling together, or a couple.
A separate and well-appointed adjacent kitchen building has 14 ‘modules’, each with its own cooktop and stainless steel benches for food preparation. All utensils and cookware are provided. An open-air dining area is available although guests are welcome to take food back to their rooms. A laundry with multiple coin-operated machines is also part of the complex.
The Price is Right
Pricing has been structured so that both budget-conscious short-term local tourists looking for a cheap bed, and workers wanting to stay in the region for several weeks, are both catered for. The longer term deals compare favourably with working hostel prices. And with the privacy of a double room in a modern well-appointed building with ensuite bathrooms, the standard is above what most hostels can offer.
The Snowy Valleys Council is commended for their foresight and investment in building this complex. For backpackers and other travelling workers, particularly those interested in work at the nearby berry farm that employs hundreds of workers for many weeks at the start of the year, having this excellent facility will ensure there is plenty of high quality but affordable beds during the critical harvest period.