Region endures ‘mad ride’

Sophia ConstantineNorth West Telegraph
Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan takes questions in Karratha.
Camera IconRegional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan takes questions in Karratha. Credit: Picture: Tom Zaunmayr

Cash-strapped Pilbara local government has been lumped with with the cost of boom-time building projects, according to Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan.

Labor Minister Ms MacTiernan and Pilbara Labor MP Kevin Michel flew into Port Hedland last week to hold a public forum.

Speaking at the forum, Ms MacTiernan said the past 10-15 years had been a “mad ride” for people in the Pilbara, and it was time for a “new game” in town.

“We can’t simply afford to keep shovelling the money out the door in the way that it was before ... We have got an 82 per cent net debt-to-revenue ratio,” she said.

Ms MacTiernan said she had concerns about the cost burden of some projects that had been left to local authorities.

“One of the things that we have found coming into Government is that there has been an enormous number of things built and handed over to local government and initially everyone was very enthusiastic about it,” she said.

“But simply, the cost burden that is going to fall onto local government is going to be something that is really difficult for many local authorities to manage.”

She said it was important to work with local government to transition through some projects so they did not become long-term liabilities for the local community.

Ms MacTiernan said the Government would focus on enhancing job prosperity in the region to generate long-term jobs.

“We are going to be focusing on those things that really generate jobs into the future — not just jobs in the delivery of the projects but those things with a rigorous business case that are going to see longterm jobs behind them,” she said.

During the community consultation, North West regional TAFE training manager Cheryl Song Loong asked the minister if Royalties for Regions investment would be committed to support collaborative community strategies.

“We’ve seen the previous Government throw the TAFE sector into massive turmoil with huge cuts,” she said.

“We need to work with our partner organisations, community groups and local elders to build from the ground up — programs that can build pathways that are going to make a change to people’s futures.”

Ms MacTiernan said the Government would ensure education projects that had come through Royalties for Regions in the past were protected.

She said it was important to develop the capabilities of those in the community.

After the forum in Port Hedland, Ms MacTiernan and Mr Michel visited Karratha to take questions from the public.

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