Is the boom back?

Pilbara town of Karratha on track for economic boom as businesses invest in north west WA

Could a half-built Hungry Jack’s outlet in the red dirt Pilbara town of Karratha signal another economic boom is just around the corner?

The city, which is already home to billions of dollars worth of oil and gas, renewable energy and mining projects, has established itself as a family-friendly town, with high-rise buildings and a diverse hospitality scene surrounded by unique natural scenery.

Its 16,000 residents have experienced the riches of booms and devastations of busts, but could be on the verge of seeing another period of rapid growth, sparked by a plethora of construction projects and major tourism opportunities.

And nothing could be more telling of a regional town on the rise than the introduction of a new Hungry Jack’s.

The outlet would form part of the recently announced $17 million Tambrey Village shopping centre, which is due to be completed by the end of this year and would open the door for small businesses and well-known retail giants.

And just a five-minute drive from the development is an empty lot, where by the end of the year would stand a $20 million four-star Hilton hotel that will add 100 beds to an already robust market.

Local hospitality powerhouse Bart Parsons, who owns a bar, restaurant and deli in town, saw the Hungry Jack’s investment as a coup rather than a competitor.

“The store is a sign of the times, it is a reflection that people are putting investment on the ground,” he said.

“It shows (that) comparted to the other regional centres, people are confident in investing in Karratha.

“You don’t hear much negative talk from local business owners any more, that means everyone has money in their pockets. It’s definitely coming again.”

Resources projects are also showing no signs of slowing down.

Woodside’s Scarborough and Pluto Train 2 Development, and the Browse to North West Shelf project are both in the pipeline, as is the renewable energy hub at the Yara Pilbara ammonia plant.

A Woodside spokeswoman said it’s upcoming plans would maximise opportunities for local people and continue to benefit the region.

The main benefit of these projects to Karratha would be through extending operations for decades to come, with sustained training, employment and contracting opportunities
Woodside spokeswoman

Pilbara Development Commission chief executive Terry Hill said that many of the operational roles for new projects had been promised to residential workers, rather than fly-in, fly-out.

“Together, these planned projects will create an estimated 25,000 jobs in construction and 8500 jobs in operation,” he said.

“In addition to the headline employment figures of the new projects, there will be flow-on effects to small businesses linked to the resources sector, plus demand for businesses servicing the growing population.” A fly-in, fly-out workforce supporting existing and upcoming projects has sparked the development of the Gap Ridge, Woodside’s Bay Village, and the Ranges FIFO camps, totalling more than 4000 beds.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore port, rail and core services manager Ivan Vella said the company would also continue to invest significantly in the region.

He said that the mining giant had spent $281 million with Pilbara-based businesses in the 2018/19 financial year.

The future also looks bright for tourism to the city with the State and Federal governments having invested $310 million for completion of the Karratha to Tom Price Road, which is expected to be finished by the middle of this year.

International flight discussions have also ramped up, with the newly established Pilbara Airlines hoping to introduce direct return services between the town and Singapore, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City.

Kununurra-based airline Aviair also recently launched intra-regional flights, connecting Karratha to other popular spots across the Pilbara and Kimberley.

A $63 million leisure centre, $207 million hospital and $56 million arts precinct all opened their doors in the neighbouring town of Dampier will also soon boosting its facilities, with the $13.6 million Dampier Palms FIFO camp and Hampton Oval development due for completion in December, transforming the foreshore with an amphitheatre, boardwalk and children’s playground.

Housing availability within the City of Karratha boundaries has fallen to 1.5 per cent, another sign of rising demand in the area.

The local council plans to pump $35 million into housing stock to decrease rent prices and appeal for more residents.

A City spokesman said there has been signs of economic growth but warned of the impacts of a tight housing market.

“With more than $65 billion in investment over the next three to five years and anticipated population growth, Karratha is poised for major expansion,” he said.

“It is always encouraging to see signs of economic growth, however, there is a very real concern that unless efforts are made to increase supply, housing availability could tighten even further over the next few years.

“This would have a hugely negative impact on the cost of living in our community to the point where basic services such as GPs become economically unviable.”

Premier Mark McGowan said there were strong signs confidence had returned to Karratha and the local community had reason to be optimistic.

“The Pilbara is the life blood of industry in our State, and a strong Pilbara is very important to WA’s economy,” he said.

“We are working hard to ensure the Browse and Scarborough developments become a reality. My Government is focused to ensuring there projects create ongoing jobs for people in Karratha and deliver benefits to the local economy.”

Member for Pilbara Kevin Michel, said optimism was returning to the Pilbara as a whole.

But Karratha and Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Tanya Dodd has said it was important to recognise the upcoming period as a construction phase, rather than a “boom”.

If you are interested in moving to Karratha or investing in land, visit for available options.
Source: The West

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