Pilbara juggernaut needs new image
Regional Australia is an economic juggernaut with an image problem, according to Regional Australia Institute chief executive Jack Archer.
Regional Australia Institute’s latest report highlighted the resilience and productivity of regional Australia, but noted “relentless negativity” and “political rhetoric” had undermined the true potential of 40 per cent of the nation’s economy.
Mr Archer said the Pilbara was still punching above its weight economically.
“Arguably iron ore is the most important export and is a massive contribution to Australia’s exports, and even though conditions are quiet tough at the moment that’s still the case,” he said.
“That story of rural transition, of technology changing agriculture, that’s been a really dominant story in a lot of people’s minds, and it’s a really narrow view of what regional Australia is.
“Growth happens at different times for metropolitan Australia, but collectively the regions are a very stable source of growth.”
Regional Development Australia Pilbara chief executive Diane Pentz said it was clear the Pilbara would always be a significant contributor to the national economy.
“Productivity is always under review and we are really clear economic diversification is essential to grow regional areas,” she said. “We’ve just got to find ways of getting enthusiasm and interest into these areas.
“I think there is an opportunity now to start rebranding, and start changing that conversation around what the Pilbara is and what the Pilbara is looking to be.”
Ms Pentz said insurance premiums were a major hurdle to diversification in the North.
Mr Archer said it was interesting to see how the North West economy will change.
“Challenging conditions mean that some businesses will have difficult times, but you will have other opportunities,” he said.
“During the mining boom there wasn’t really space for anything else to happen.”
Mr Archer said iron ore would remain an essential export.