Doubt over Pilbara plan
■ 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.”