Men aban­don the re­gion as fam­i­lies grow

Pilbara News - - News - Phoebe Wearne and Tom Zaun­mayr

Thou­sands of work­ing-age men have packed up their high-vis garb and aban­doned the Pil­bara — but more fam­i­lies are call­ing the min­ing heart­land home.

Kar­ratha, Port Hed­land and East Pil­bara shed more than 11 per cent of their male pop­u­la­tions be­tween 2011 and last year.

The 2016 Cen­sus fig­ures re­veal the re­gion’s two big­gest pop­u­la­tion cen­tres lost a to­tal of 1223 res­i­dents, sig­nalling the death of the Pil­bara Cities vi­sion that was to trans­form Kar­ratha and Port Hed­land into cities of 50,000 peo­ple by 2035.

In a sign Kar­ratha is in­creas­ingly be­ing seen as a good place to raise a fam­ily, the city’s fe­male pop­u­la­tion rose by 446 and the num­ber of young peo­ple also rose.

But the pop­u­la­tion gains were off­set by a loss of 1101 men, who were mostly aged be­tween 25 and 54.

Port Hed­land gained 275 women, but 846 men moved away. Al­most 1000 men and 384 women turned their backs on East Pil­bara, which five years ago took the ti­tle of Aus­tralia’s fastest-grow­ing re­gion.

The end of WA’s min­ing boom is be­hind a big de­cline in in­ter­state mi­gra­tion, which pre­vi­ously soared as peo­ple from other parts of Aus­tralia swarmed in to take up high-pay­ing jobs.

The pop­u­la­tion drop was ac­com­pa­nied by a rise in the num­ber of un­oc­cu­pied dwellings, which has climbed to 26 per cent in Kar­ratha, 33.6 per cent in Port Hed­land and 43.4 per cent in New­man.

De­spite the down­turn, the Pil­bara still recorded WA’s high­est weekly me­dian in­come of $2381.

The State’s me­dian in­come was $724 a week, while the na­tional me­dian was $662 a week. Kar­ratha mother Olivia Wood moved to the Pil­bara in 2013 when her hus­band took up a post­ing.

At the time, she had a 10-mon­thold, but the cou­ple now have three chil­dren and love the city’s cafes and fa­cil­i­ties.

Curtin Univer­sity pop­u­la­tion anal­y­sis ex­pert Dr Amanda Davies said the min­ing con­struc­tion boom had drawn huge num­bers of work­ing-age peo­ple to WA.

How­ever, the State was now in a net loss phase, she said, with peo­ple in their 20s and 30s no longer mov­ing to the State for jobs.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

Kar­ratha res­i­dent Olivia Wood with daugh­ters Ella, 7 weeks, Caris, 5, and Grace, 4.

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