I felt a bit like the Beatles Day Tripper yesterday when I had the opportunity to head up to the powerhouse of the Australian economy – the Pilbara – specifically Karratha. It was an early morning flight out of Perth – but at 5:00 AM in the morning you could see the effects of the resources industry by the huge volume of people, luggage and planes heading off to the northern parts of the state to keep the engine of the economy going strong.
Aligned with this north western focus was an article in the West Australian by KPMG Demographer Bernard Salt espousing Broome as the site for WA’s 100,000 plus city with the need to have a defence base there as well. I have to agree that defence and security of the north west of WA is important since almost 1/2 of the export revenue for Australia comes from the region. Wherever a base may be situated it will help with the diversification of the workforce to a degree, just look to Townsville for example.
Anyway – what was I up in Karratha for? Well the Liberal – National was having a regional cabinet meeting and at the same time releasing a raft of new plans, strategies, and approving a number of significant projects to support the region including:
- New Drinking Water Sources for Karratha and the West Pilbara
- A Major Redevelopment of Karratha
- Roebourne’s NASH project
- and the Kimberly Wilderness Parks
My reason for heading up there was another CEDA event – Beyond Perth and Peel: Moving Forwards in Regional WA – we had the fortune having the majority of the state cabinet along to the lunchtime session with presentations from Colin Barnett, Norman Moore, Brendon Grylls, and John Day, as well as some fantastic presentations in the morning.
Of the 150 people present at the event there was representation from state government, local government, the resources sector, as well as the broader private sector.
The announcements of investment in the Pilbara and the commitment by the state government is significant – I believe it was best summed up by the Honourable Brendon Grylls – the government ahs invested two thousand million dollars in the area – but it will be of no use unless the resources sector embraces the planned developments and supports it. It was a pretty blunt presentation by the leader of the Nationals, however very valid. The government has stated the build in… now they are waiting for people to come… a bit like the field of dreams really.
If the government builds it will the resources sector come?
This work by the state government is in the right direction and is part of their Pilbara Cities work (I believe I mentioned this in a previous post on Placed Based Policy). The major sticking point to this and it comes back to Salt’s article was that there needs to be Federal support for this. Amazingly there was a reporter from the The Australian lets keep track of this to see what reports may come out of his visit to WA with Infrastructure Australia.
There is still much to be done to make the most of this next prolonged growth phase. Once last comment (and I am sure that I will have to post more about my brief day trip) was something that out Premier Colin Barnett said about the often reported issues about lack of skilled staff in WA – and it made sense (to a degree) – he said that we need to stop telling everyone that we don’t have the labour force to do the work here in WA otherwise we will end up telling companies wanting to invest and set up here that there may be some risk. It is an interesting perspective – but at the same time we need to be feverishly planning for and sourcing skilled workers to support the projects and growth that this state (and the country) is to experience.