JULY A tale of one city — and one town — in the Pilbara July marked five years since former Pilbara MLA Brendon Grylls declared Karratha the first city of the north. At the time, he was hopeful of declaring Port Hedland a city too by year’s end. That didn’t happen and the gulf between the two towns is hard to ignore. Pilbara News looked back at the progression of Karratha and Port Hedland over the last half decade. Work camp proposal to house 1300 Karratha hotel Best Western Plus The Ranges lodged a development application with the City of Karratha to build a 1288-bed workforce village in an extension of its existing premises on De Witt Road, about 1.5km from the CBD. Waste initiatives cheered Yara Pilbara, Woodside and Rio Tinto made inroads into the war on waste, with all three companies starting initiatives focused on reducing, reusing and recycling. Yara is leading the way with a ban on the use of disposable cups saving the company $20,000 a year. September start for delayed road Construction of stage three of the Karratha to Tom Price road was set back due to delays in issuing tenders and the discovery of asbestos in the area. At the beginning of April, Pilbara News reported construction of stage three would start in July, but it was reported work would not begin for at least another three months. NW flights to take off It was announced a new air route linking five towns in the North West would take off from August after stakeholder support helped get the ambitious plan over the line. The Aviair flight network would involve regular flights from Karratha to Paraburdoo, Port Hedland, Newman and Broome, and Newman to Port Hedland, on a nine-seat plane. Beazley backs major defence presence in NW WA Governor Kim Beazley underscored the need for a major defence presence in the North West to protect key infrastructure, saying that the region’s strategic position is poised to only become more complex in the years to come. Study finds Gulf plays critical role A once-in-a-generation report revealed the staggering level of biodiversity in the Exmouth Gulf and found it contains more species than the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. The report revealed the Exmouth Gulf was home to at least 1800 species of fauna, including eight marine mammal species, five species of sea turtles, 63 species of sharks and rays and 790 species of fish. AUGUST ACCC push to cut insurance costs A national website comparing home insurance costs was among 13 new recommendations put forward by the consumer watchdog to help those struggling with high premiums in the North West. The comparison site would be compulsory for all insurance companies and would provide consumers with clear information about their choices. Karratha a city built on resources and passion Karratha celebrated 50 years since it was gazetted and Pilbara News looked back on the main turning points in its history. From a vast tract of undeveloped pastoral land to a prosperous regional city in control of its destiny, Karratha has come a long way in its first half century. Resident’s Qantas probe grounded A Karratha resident’s quest for answers about the high cost of airfares in the Pilbara was foiled after a meeting with Qantas failed to provide answers. Chris Pickett, who started a 9000-signature petition and a Facebook group with more than 5000 members, met with a senior representative from Qantas and raised eight issues on behalf of residents in the region. Festival crowd shimmers for golden 50th birthday The red dust of Tom Price was laced with gold as community members celebrated the golden jubilee of their town’s biggest annual event. The Nameless Jarndunmunha Festival marked its 50th anniversary, drawing several thousand people to Clem Thompson Memorial Oval for the milestone event, which featured the gold-inspired theme of Jubilee in the Dust. City’s rental squeeze even worse Rental properties in Karratha became harder to find as prices soared and owner-occupier rates skyrocketed. According to the Real Estate Institute of WA website, the price of most rental properties had increased between $40 to $70 a week since the beginning of 2019 and the number of homes available to lease fell from 140 to 40 in just over six months. FIFO camps to house 5288 staff Three applications for new fly-in, fly-out workforce accommodation projects went before the City of Karratha council, a sign the predicted rise in resource industry activity in the region is taking off. Councillors voted not to oppose any of the projects in-principle but noted an increase in new FIFO camp developments would present a “difficult balancing act”. SEPTEMBER Get set for mini-boom The Pilbara needed to start preparing for significant economic growth with a rapidly tightening property market, rising population and diversifying economy already manifesting as early signs of an upswing, according to a report prepared for the State Government. Prospects of major NW city raised Calls for politicians to renew focus on establishing a major city in the North West, potentially in Karratha, received the backing of two prominent West Australians. On Seven’s new panel show Flashpoint, former foreign minister Julie Bishop and WA builder Dale Alcock said creating a North West city would showcase WA to key Asian trading partners. Rodeo thrills, spills bring small town to life Charging bulls and bucking horses made their riders hold on tight and the red dust fly at the Pilbara’s biggest rodeo. The three-day Robe River Rodeo and Campdraft drew several thousand people to Pannawonica, bringing the small town to life for its biggest annual event, now in its 24th year. Road project under way Two major Pilbara towns witnessed a milestone achievement after construction of an infrastructure project decades in the making finally got under way. The official sod-turning for stage three of the Karratha to Tom Price Road was conducted, with Premier Mark McGowan and Minister for Transport Rita Saffioti completing the bumpy journey between the two towns on the currently unsealed road. GP wait times clogging up ED Wait times of up to two weeks to get a GP appointment in Karratha saw more people going to the local hospital emergency department. At the time, there were only two GP clinics in the area, with a total of six doctors to serve more than 20,000 people who live in the likes of Karratha, Wickham, Dampier and Point Samson. Mining area’s big tourism opportunities Karratha was a hive of activity when close to 250 delegates went to the city for the WA Regional Tourism Conference. It was only the second time the conference has been held in a regional location, with major tourism stakeholders gathering to discuss topics such as indigenous tourism, skills and labour and the changing perception of Karratha. OCTOBER Premier warns Feds on bid to scrap FBT Premier Mark McGowan said the Pilbara would be “dramatically impacted” if the Federal Government adopted a report recommendation to scrap allowances and fringe benefits tax concessions. He made the comment in response to Pilbara MLA Kevin Michel who asked what concessions would mean for regional towns. CBD hotel work to start this year Construction of a long-awaited hotel at The Quarter in Karratha’s CBD was set to begin before Christmas, after being approved by the State’s regional development authority. Work on the 100-room Hilton Garden Inn was due to start in January, but delays with the sale of the land and the development application caused that timeframe to be set back by almost a year. BDR on track: Papalia It was reported that a Pilbara-wide trial of the banned drinkers register could begin as soon as the end of the year. Racing and Gaming Minister Paul Papalia said the trial of a banned drinkers register, which he had proposed for August 2018, would start around the end of the year. Take two for liquor ban push A fresh push for tougher liquor restrictions in parts of the Pilbara looked on the way as WA Police confirmed its officers had gathered information for a potential new application. A WA Police spokeswoman confirmed that liquor enforcement unit officers from Perth visited Karratha, Roebourne, Wickham and Newman between August and October to collect information. Works starts on new shops Work started on Karratha’s first major retail project in decades — a $17 million shopping precinct in Nickol that is expected to better activate the western side of the city. Two building companies began concurrent construction works on the Tambrey Village shopping centre, on the corner of Dampier Highway and Bathgate Road. NOVEMBER Nightclub plan to jump over more hurdles A new two-storey nightclub proposed for the Karratha CBD was approved by the council, subject to it meeting further compliance requirements. A development application for the old bank building at 12 Hedland Place to be converted into Karratha’s second nightclub was approved with conditions by an 8-2 majority of City of Karratha councillors. Planning under way for new $38m hospital The WA Country Health Service entered the early stages of planning a proposed $38 million hospital for the town of Tom Price to replace its ageing existing facility. A portion of the vacant land bordered by East Road, Poinsettia Street and South Street had been identified by WACHS as the preferred location for a new Tom Price health service. World menus set to be our oyster They are a seafood delicacy and their planned mass production in the North West could see WA-grown rock oysters reach menus across the globe as part of a move to bolster local economies and create work. The Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia pumped millions of dollars worth of Commonwealth funding into aquaculture trial sites. Baby a Para celebrity The community of Paraburdoo had a case of baby joy after the first baby to be born at the town’s hospital in more than 14 years entered the world. Born eight weeks premature, Cooper Coles was delivered by local staff and Royal Flying Doctor Service specialists in an unexpectedly early birth at Paraburdoo Hospital on Friday, November 7. Housing plan to keep rent down The lack of housing availability and rising rents in Karratha could become a thing of the past as the City considered an investment program worth tens of millions of dollars. City of Karratha councillors passed a motion to develop a business plan which would look into the idea of investing between $20 million and $35 million to build houses and apartments in town. DECEMBER New sports bars to liven up town It was reported that the hospitality scene in Karratha could drastically transform over the subsequent 12 months as the city prepared to go from having no sports bars to three by the end of 2020. Blanche Bar Group submitted the license for its newest venture, Grand Central, which will open at the new Tambrey Village Shopping Centre by next November, while Onyx on Sharpe owner Sean Throssel prepared to open Stadium 26 and the Tav in Pegs Creek continued with renovations to convert its space. TV family affair for Red Dog vet Best known as Red Dog’s vet, Rick Fenny returned to TV, this time with his family in tow and a whole heap of different animals to treat. The well-known Pilbara vet hit the small screen for the four-episode TV series Desert Vet, which saw him deal with everything from loveable pets to endangered whale sharks alongside his marine biologist son Ed Fenny and his veterinarian daughter Louisa Fenny. One last wag of Pilbara’s greatest tail A legendary Pilbara tail hit the big screens once again to draw the curtain on one of the most iconic and beloved Australian movie franchises in history. Koko: A Red Dog Story officially opened in cinemas, bringing an end to the award-winning film series that has become synonymous with the red-dirt region. Palms reno to boost town The Dampier Community Association rejoiced at the news a contractor had been appointed to redevelop Rio Tinto’s mothballed workers’ village. Rio Tinto engaged CMA Contracting to complete the renovation of the 576-room Peninsula Palms Village, near Rio Tinto’s Dampier port. Tree’s company for saving lives The Anchovy Flats between Karratha and Dampier are home to many whimsical sculptures, but from December a lone blue tree stood as a stark reminder of the tragedy which struck the community in the corresponding period the year before. The 2018 festive season was a tough one for many, with the family and friends of the eight people in the region who took their own lives still reeling from the loss.