TO ACCOMMODATE for peak farming times, the owners East Bundaberg Backpackers are expanding their business.
Christine and Brian Sparkes have owned the Princess St business for three years and said twice a year, for a three to four-week period demand from farms for workers grows beyond their 12-room, 93-bed capacity.
Mrs Sparkes said during those peak periods they were forced to outsource workers or ask other hostels for help.
“So we either borrow from them (other hostels) and say ‘Do you have people who are not working?’ or we get the people (ourselves) and ask if we can put them in their hostel,” Mrs Sparkes said.
“And that’s very hard to manage because we have quite a good culture here; that sense of familiarity creates a certain atmosphere, but living in another hostel, they’re not a part of that, they don’t feel a part of that.”
“So we haven’t had so much success having people stay in another hostel.”
Mrs Sparkes said having their backpackers stay in another hostel or borrowing workers also created difficulties with early morning pick-ups.
“So we need the extra space here,” she said.
In an application currently before the Bundaberg Regional Council, the Sparkes are requesting to add an extension to their building with another three rooms, allowing for 28 more beds and six carparks – as the business currently has none.
And despite East Bundaberg Backpackers formerly being a pub, called Prince of Wales Hotel when it was first built in 1883, it is a dry hostel that only rents to backpackers for farm work.
“We have a waiting list to get in here (but) we’re not always full, because we’ll only take enough people for what work we have,” she said.
“Then you don’t have people who are bored and wanting to create mischief.
“You only have people who are happy and harmonious and completely exhausted from doing farm work. It’s like school holidays you just wear them out, if everyone’s worn out, they’re fine.”
As part of the application, the Sparkes said they also want to add a covered outdoor area and have plans to paint the building and bring back some of the original timber work under peeling paint of the bricked-in building.
Council planning and development spokesman Ross Sommerfeld said it was too soon to comment on how the application would progress.
“This application has only recently been submitted to (the) council and is yet to go through a statutory process,” he said.
“So it would be premature to make any comment about the outcome of this assessment.”
Cr Sommerfeld said the application was impact assessable.
“So it will need to go through a period of public notification before any council decisions are made,” he said.