Calls Are Still Being Made for a New Dubai Type City of 1 Million To Be Built in the Pilbara, the Engine Room of Australia, After the Former WA Premier Preferred Darwin Like Cities To Be Built 10 Years Ago
By Rebecca Lawson
The state government has today unveiled plans to develop Karratha and Port Hedland into more liveable cities, modeled on Darwin rather than Dubai, in a bid to soften the Pilbara's hostility to new arrivals and meet the need for expanded services in the region.
Premier Colin Barnett and his Minister for Regional Development and Lands Brendon Grylls were both in Dampier to announce key elements of the $300 million Pilbara Revitalisation Plan revealed in the 2009-10 state budget.
Joining the political leaders in the north west were major players in the resources sector and, notably, land development, with a who's who of WA's property leadership taking the trip to see the plans unveiled or already underway.
The two Pilbara centres are the population hubs of the "Pilbara Cities" blueprint.
Mr Barnett today quashed any potential plans to develop the north west towns into a major city similar to Dubai.
"The media wrote at one stage about a Dubai in the north; well not quite," the premier said today.
Just days before work is due to start on the $43 billion Gorgon gas joint venture project off the Pilbara coast, Mr Barnett said the region's other centres, including Dampier, South Hedland, Newman, Tom Price and Onslow, would also undergo "major revitalisations".
He said the framework was in place to create modern high density centres in the "economic powerhouse of Australia", supported by the services enjoyed in other Australian cities.
The blueprint includes accelerated land releases in the region, notably in South Hedland and in the Dampier-Karratha area and the use of higher-density CBD-style development patterns including medium to high rise.
Mr Barnett said today the government was looking at Darwin as a model for the housing mix to better deal with the harsh tropical conditions.
"Perth suburbs don't work in Pilbara," he said.
Mr Grylls today launched an initiative to help deliver affordable rent for private sector workers in Karratha, where weekly rents can reach as high as $1,500 a week.
"This new initiative for private sector service workers, which aims to achieve rents in the range of $350 to $450 for one, two and three-bedroom modular units, will be the first of its kind in Western Australia," he said.
The state government had selected National Lifestyle Villages as its preferred proponent to construct and manage a 100 service worker units, valued at $30.4 million.
The decision to build the village leaves 1.3 hectares of land to be developed by LandCorp as a mixed-use site as part of the town centre revitilisation program.
The Premier today also revealed plans to $70 million marina and mixed-use tourism precinct at Perth Hedland.
Mr Barnett cited a Darwinesque opportunity, reflecting the Northern Territory's success in transitioning from a rather grubby service town to a popular tropical city with upmarket attractions.
Darwin's transformation has occurred over the past two decades, led by developments such as the Cullen Bay marina area and big improvements to its entertainment district.
Mr Barnet said the objective was to create more sustainable, liveable Pilbara communities to support the rapidly expanding resources sector and population growth and potential new industry.
Last week the state government said it would be seeking a further $471 million from the federal government to bring his 'Pilbara cities' vision to fruition.
The funds will be used to upgrade airport facilities, wastewater services, serviced land and accommodation in Karratha and Port Hedland.
While the developments are relatively minor compared to some calls for the state to plan for a city of 1 million people in the Pilbara, there is no doubt that they are the result of an emerging view that the north west has be made inviting for the much bigger population required to service the resources growth that will occur over the next few decades.
The announcements are below:
State Government launches blueprint for Pilbara Cities.
Karratha and Port Hedland would become major cities of the future under a ground-breaking State Government initiative to encourage more people to live and settle in the Pilbara.
Launching the 'Pilbara Cities' blueprint in Dampier today, Premier Colin Barnett said the framework was now in place to transform the region by creating modern higher density centres, supported by all the services and facilities enjoyed in other Australian cities.
Funding and resources from State, Federal and local governments as well as private sector investment, would bring a series of important infrastructure and community amenity upgrades to key towns in the Pilbara.
These include major revitalisations of South Hedland, Karratha, Newman, Dampier, Tom Price and Onslow town centres, together with plans to create new marinas and improved waterfronts at Port Hedland, Dampier and possibly Onslow.
The Pilbara Cities blueprint also focused on new schools and TAFEs; hospitals and medical centres; leisure and entertainment facilities; shopping and retail precincts; employment and indigenous enterprise opportunities; large-scale land releases; and affordable living initiatives, all supported by significant improvements and upgrades to energy, water and waste management services.
"When the Pilbara was developed in the 1960s, the governments and the industry of the day tried to replicate Perth's suburbs - three-bedroom, one bathroom, backyard, Hills hoist.
"While this is often considered the ideal model, we want to offer choice to people in these areas like high-rise apartments with air-conditioning, pools, green lawns and parks, similar to the development that has taken place in Darwin," the Premier said.
"The Pilbara is the economic powerhouse of Australia and is on the verge of another period of accelerated economic growth.
The State Government is acting quickly to fulfil its election commitments to meet not just the anticipated short term pressures, but to secure the Pilbara's future long after the resources sector has reached its peak.
"Critical to this will be enticing people and businesses not involved in the mining, oil and gas sectors to the region.
"The Government's vision is to create places that people choose to settle on a permanent basis, a place to bring up families with access to high standards of education, health and diverse employment and career opportunities.
"We have set the bar high, but we are a 'make it happen' Government. The Pilbara Cities blueprint lays out the steps we, and our partners in the private sector, need to take to achieve the very best outcomes, not just for the people of the Pilbara, but for all Western Australians."
The Premier said the private sector would play a crucial role and had already entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Rio Tinto to investigate development opportunities across the Pilbara.
Today's signing of the MOU between the Government and Rio Tinto includes investigations into the scope for a marina and tourism precinct in Dampier.
Pilbara Cities would also bring opportunities for private developers to help deliver accommodation solutions in the Pilbara where there is significant pressure on demand for both short-term and permanent housing.
"The private sector will play a key role in bringing a range of housing options to the region, including higher density units, apartments and townhouses," Mr Barnett said.
"The types of opportunities soon to be offered range from prime waterfront and town centre sites to superlots in or nearby existing residential estates.
"Increasing density is one way to address the issue of affordability by providing choices such as apartment-style living."
In an effort to further address the affordability issue, the Government has embarked on program of private sector opportunities within the rental market
Regional Development and Lands Minister Brendon Grylls today announced
$30.4million Royalties for Regions funding for the construction of a village for service workers in Karratha comprising 100 homes to be built by National Lifestyle Villages.
In a town currently achieving rentals of $2,000 per week for a four-bedroom home, the village would offer rental accommodation at an anticipated $350 to $450 per week for employees in the retail, tourism and general service sectors.
"Workers in these businesses and services are crucial if we are to offer the lifestyle opportunities that keep people in the region, attract new residents and make our towns desirable places to live, work and socialise," Mr Grylls said.
Another site, offering permanent and temporary workers accommodation, was being developed in South Hedland and today, as part of the Pilbara Cities launch, the Government formalised an agreement with AuzCorp following the signing of a development lease, with the aim to start works in the first quarter of 2010.
The Government has already committed $300million to the Royalties For Regions Pilbara Revitalisation Plan and was seeking Infrastructure Australia funding towards a total $471million for urgent works for airport upgrades, wastewater services, serviced land and accommodation.
Service workers recognised in 100-unit worker's village for Karratha.
The critical need for employee accommodation at Karratha's retail, hospitality, tourism and general service sectors has been recognised by the State Government.
Lands Minister Brendon Grylls today announced funding approval for the construction of a village dedicated to providing more affordable rental accommodation to service workers.
The Minister said a new village site located adjacent to the town centre would provide approximately 100 accommodation units to house up to 250 people.
Mr Grylls said he had been working to find a solution to the huge challenge of providing more affordable housing for services employees in Karratha.
"We are working with local authorities and other areas of Government to revitalise the town of Karratha but we needed to find an interim solution to the current high rental costs of between $900 to $1,400 per week for a three-bedroom home and upwards of $1,500 for a four-bedroom home," he said
"Rents like this make it difficult for non-resource sector employees and small businesses to be able to afford to live and operate in Karratha.
"The resources sector may be the driver of Australia's economy, but without services for the community such as shops, restaurants and cafes, resources-sector towns are one dimensional.
"Our goal for the Pilbara is to create thriving regional towns that are highly desirable places to live to attract and retain new residents.
"Resource companies already have initiatives in place to assist their employees with the cost of accommodation.
"For Government employees, including teachers and nurses, there is subsidised housing.
"This new initiative for private sector service workers, which aims to achieve rents in the range of $350 to $450 for one, two and three-bedroom modular units, will be the first of its kind in Western Australia."
An Expression of Interest for private sector involvement in the construction of the.
100 service worker units was held earlier this year. The preferred proponent is National Lifestyle Villages, which has significant experience in modular house construction and village management and maintenance.
The submission by National Lifestyle Villages had the added benefit of not requiring the full size of the site for the construction of the village, meaning 1.3ha of land could now be developed by LandCorp as a mixed-use site as part of the town centre revitalisation program.
A total of $30.4million would be allocated from the Royalties for Regions Pilbara Revitalisation Plan for the construction of the village, which is expected to see the first units becoming available by mid-2010, with final completion by early to mid-2011.
Town revitalisation leads new era for Hedland.
Major works have commenced at South Hedland as part of the State Government's
$23million revitalisation of the town centre.
The State Government's new 'Pilbara Cities' vision aims to transform Port Hedland as a future city.
Visiting South Hedland today, Premier Colin Barnett and Regional Development and Lands Minister Brendon Grylls unveiled the final South Hedland town square concept, a direct result of months of extensive community consultation.
"The community pooled their ideas to help create a new town square to have a positive impact on lifestyle, safety and facilities for residents and visitors to the town,"
Mr Barnett said.
The new town square includes retail and cafe strip; shade structures; a grassed amphitheatre-style multi-use event space; a water-play area; public artworks; and lighting to increase community safety.
Mr Barnett said South Hedland's revitalisation would provide a boost to local businesses and could ultimately become a blueprint for upgrades to other regional town centres.
"With up to 600 dwellings, the South Hedland redevelopment will ultimately provide a better lifestyle and much-improved environment for the growing number of families settling permanently in the region," he said.
Bulk earthworks had commenced for the first stage of the project, with land to be made available for up to 130 townhouses and apartments plus commercial, medical and retail space. Civil construction was expected to be completed in October 2010.
The State Government also revealed concept plans for a new marina and mixed-use tourism precinct at Port Hedland.
The $70million project would create space for 143 recreational boat pens and berths for 10 tug boats.
Mr Grylls said land south of the Pilbara TAFE building had been set aside for approximately 400 temporary and permanent dwellings, with works anticipated to commence in the first quarter of 2010.
Signing a Development Lease contract with AuzCorp, which would create the workers accommodation, Mr Grylls said the new dwellings would help alleviate the accommodation pressures associated with the fly-in, fly-out workforce.
The Minister said the Government was also actively seeking ways to maximise skills and job opportunities for indigenous people under the Royalties for Regions Pilbara Revitalisation plan and Pilbara Cities vision.