Northern Exposure

Well I’ve managed to make it back down to Perth after a whirlwind tour of the north – it was a fantastic experience and a great way of gaining a greater understanding of some of the issues that the North-West faces (and it did not include a roaming moose!)…

Firstly I was only up in Pilbara for three (long and fantastic) days, however it was a great opportunity to meet some of the leaders of the region and there were several themes that bubbled to the surface:

1. Passion

It may be the harsher conditions of the Pilbara – however all of the people that I talked to that lived and worked up there have a passion for the area and a passion for what they are doing.  It left me with a very strong feeling that the area is in good hands…

2. Integration

This and the next theme are tied together – however with the planned growth around Karratha with Pilbara Cities as well as the multiple resources developments there is a stong need to integrate information and planning across government (local, state, and federal) as well as private industry to get the best outcomes… something that is not easy to do.  Some of the key areas of integration are water supply (and treatment), energy supply, and land supply.  The first two need to be done in coordination (see below) with private industry since they consume massive quantities of both, the last one is being managed more so through government.  Time will tell how well things are integrated up there…

3. Coordination

Undertaking a project (say building a house) takes coordination of trades and services to see it built smoothly, rapidly, and cost effectively – the same could be said about building a 50,000 population town – just on a much larger scale.  This would be easy if the water and energy supplies were being heavily impacted by resources projects – planning for the growth of a town would not be as big an issue if it was only being managed by the government – however the changing decisions of private companies in commencing (or delaying) projects can have a significant impact on the timing of infrastructure development / expansion (and potentially funding for them).  This is a major challenge for the Pilbara Cities project…

4. History

I’d heard about rock art up in the Burrup Peninsula; however until I had been up there and seen the amount and extent of the worlds longest continual human record of culture and environment etched into the amazing rocks it did not mean much to me.  To see just a miniscule amount of this unique record up close was an amazing experience – made even more significant by the education and information of an amazing guide as well as a knowledgeable colleague.  I believe it is being considered for World Heritage listing – and I’d agree it should.

It was very hard to comprehend walking amongst a 30,000 year record of human habitation and the just around the corner is the Burrup Fertiliser plant, the NW Shelf Gas Project, and the Pluto development.  Needless to say it is a huge contradiction to see these to conflicting land uses in the same area.

So overall lots of opportunities and challenges – and a great place to visit.  I’ll keep tabs on what’s happening up there and keep things updated when I can.

Tom

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