No exodus from City: ABS data
The City of Karratha has defied the doom and gloom of the mining downturn with the latest ABS data indicating the population has remained steady since 2014.
Preliminary 2015 regional population growth statistics indicate the City boasts a population of more than 26,000 despite constant speculation of a residential exodus in the past year.
That figure comprises of 19,235 in the Karratha statistical area, and 6993 in the Roebourne area.
While the data indicates a healthy population, WA Premier Colin Barnett last week admitted the State Government’s 2035 population goals for the Pilbara Cities vision were beginning to look out of reach.
Member for Pilbara Brendon Grylls said despite the negative sentiment Karratha was often portrayed in, he remained confident of its future.
“Given we’ve come off the resource construction period and there’s been a fundamental shift in the economy ... the fact the latest ABS stats show the local population has remained stable gives me confidence that we’ve probably weathered the storm,” he said.
“One of the sure ways to ensure you don’t get to 50,000 though is to have the (media) running front page stories and editorials week after week saying the place is falling apart and there’s tumbleweeds rolling down the street; that’s not what you see when you come here.
“What does stop that vision is if you turn the tap off and say we’re not going to invest in the Pilbara, we’re just going to invest in Elizabeth Quay, in sports stadiums and in hospitals in Perth.
“Plenty of people who don’t share that vision are willing to jump off the train at the first opportunity, but as a person who invented that train and wants to drive it, I’m staying on it.”
Mr Grylls said the framework had been laid out for private investment and small businesses to drive growth in the City.
Pilbara Development Commission acting chief executive Terry Hill said population figures set out in the Pilbara Cities vision were not forecasts, but glimpses into the potential for the region.
“You only have to walk down the main street in Karratha to see the impact of the Pilbara Cities initiative, and the work is far from over,” he said. “Without a crystal ball we cannot predict what will happen..
“What we can do is make sure the Pilbara is in the best possible position to take advantage of new development and investment opportunities while building vibrant regional towns and cities that attract and retain residents.”
Mr Hill said industries such as tourism, solar power, agriculture and aquaculture presented plenty of opportunities for the region moving forward. “The capacity of infrastructure, services and land availability also allows workers to live permanently in town, rather than in transient worker accommodation,” he said.
“This has been proven to improve the well-being of the individual and provides great benefits back to the community as well.”
Karratha and Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive John Lally said the stable population coupled with easing costs were making it increasingly easy for businesses to start up in the City.
“It’s a service industry for population, that is where the opportunity lies,” he said.
“All these projects coming along with tourism as well, a lot of those tourism businesses are set up by families.”
Overall Pilbara population decreased by 0.7 per cent, mostly because of a decline in the East Pilbara. Ashburton’s population remained steady at 11,000 and the Exmouth local government area still sits below 2600.