Two Pilbara local governments have lodged an application to the Federal Government to ease access for international workers to help struggling businesses in the region. The City of Karratha and Town of Port Hedland announced on Tuesday they had submitted an application for a designated area migration agreement with help from Regional Development Association Pilbara. The agreement would open up a broader list of occupations for overseas workers, and allow low and semi-skilled workers to work in Australia. It comes after City councillors approved a motion last December to make the application to the Federal Government in the hope of gaining access to more overseas workers than the standard skilled migration program and in May launched a survey to get feedback from local industry about the proposal. A business climate scorecard, commissioned by the City of Karratha, found recruiting and retaining workers was the biggest issue affecting businesses, with 48 per cent of respondents identifying it as the main issue affecting their business operations and growth. CoK Mayor Peter Long said local businesses faced significant operational challenges as they struggled to attract and retain workers. “The City is currently experiencing very low levels of unemployment with local unemployment figures sitting well below the national average,” he said. “As market confidence returns post-COVID, this will place additional pressure on an already strained labour market and exacerbate businesses’ current difficulties attracting workers.” Cr Long said the DAMA formed part of a holistic approach to attract and retain skilled workers, remove red tape and support recruitment efforts in the future. “The agreement will not affect the recruitment process for Australians because businesses must demonstrate that genuine and prolonged efforts have been made to recruit Australians first,” he said. ToPH Mayor Peter Carter said the Pilbara was experiencing staff shortages across broad sectors of the economy, which was impacting the regions service delivery and liveability. “A Pilbara DAMA would enable employers within the Pilbara to sponsor skilled overseas workers that they have been unable to fill with Australian workers,” he said. “The Town advocates that employment should be offered to Australians first, however we also believe that skilled migrants play a key role in supplementing the local workforce.” RDA Pilbara chief executive Tony Simpson said the application was an example of how local governments could support businesses with skill shortages. “RDA Pilbara is looking forward to becoming the designated area representative for the DAMA and hopes to work with the Shires of East Pilbara and Ashburton to get them on board to have a Pilbara DAMA,” he said. The Goldfields introduced a DAMA in March 2019, allowing up to 500 people per year to be sponsored to live and work in the region. The shires of Esperance and Dundas were both probing similar arrangements before COVID-19 hit.