Doubt over Pil­bara plan

Pilbara News - - News - Ben Leahy

■ The Cham­ber of Min­er­als and Energy says it is time for a “re­al­ity check” on the vi­sion to grow Hed­land and Kar­ratha into cities with 50,000 peo­ple.

CME chief ex­ec­u­tive Reg Howard-Smith, whose lobby body rep­re­sents min­ing groups, said he sup­ported Roy­al­ties for Re­gions spend­ing and the com­mu­nity projects it helps fund.

But he ques­tioned whether there was “risk” at­tached to pur­su­ing am­bi­tious Pil­bara Cities pop­u­la­tion tar­gets, which also in­clude New­man grow­ing to 15,000 peo­ple.

“We need to (ask) is there any risk?” he said.

“This is gen­uinely ask­ing the ques­tion (about) build­ing fa­cil­i­ties which may not have the cus­tomer de­mand … in the years ahead.

“It is not to say there shouldn’t be those new fa­cil­i­ties, we are not say­ing that at all.

“It is whether we are go­ing to gold plate and build fa­cil­i­ties that may not be needed — it is very much a ques­tion, not a crit­i­cism.

“We want to be part (of fu­ture dis­cus­sions with all stake­hold­ers).”

Mr Howard-Smith’s call for a re­view of Pil­bara Cities comes af­ter the re­gion’s growth over the past decade has been pow­ered by the min­ing con­struc­tion boom.

While ex­pect­ing fur­ther de­vel­op­ment in the re­sources in­dus­try, Mr Howard-Smith said last decade had been a once-ina-life­time boom and it was time to turn to other in­dus­tries.

“We look at it from a pos­i­tive point of view,” he said.

“What sort of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment would you need to reach these (Pil­bara Cities) tar­gets in the years and decades ahead, and ask our­selves are we go­ing to see that?”

“For other sec­tors, what is their con­tri­bu­tion, as well as the re­sources sec­tor, to the fu­ture for the vi­sion of Pil­bara Cities?”

Mr Howard-Smith also said his in­dus­try sup­ported the re­cent lease of Port Hed­land’s air­port to a pri­vate con­sor­tium, but would keep an eye on how the trans­ac­tion panned out.

He also cau­tiously backed the ben­e­fits of a fu­ture marine ser­vic­ing fa­cil­ity at Hed­land’s Lums­den Point.

“We have seen the ad­van­tages of hav­ing a marine fa­cil­ity in the south west at Hen­der­son Point — there might have been crit­i­cism when that started, but now we see that as an ad­van­tage to Western Aus­tralia,” he said.

“There could well be longterm ad­van­tages to hav­ing a sim­i­lar fa­cil­ity in north-western Aus­tralia — that will de­pend on de­vel­op­ment.”

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