Article – Pilbara hears diversification crucial to region's growth

10 April 2014
ABC News
The chairman of a Federal Government committee, examining the development of northern Australia, says the diversification of the Pilbara’s industries is essential to the future growth of the region.
The Coalition plans to prepare a white paper by September to guide future development of the region and is looking at the potential for more investment, infrastructure, jobs and services.
Chairman Warren Entsch attended a hearing in Karratha yesterday and says there are impediments to growth in the Pilbara, including affordability and a lack of social infrastructure.
“We’ve got to deal with accessibility of land so that people can actually buy a home in this region because they want to grow a family here,” he said.
“We’ve got to look at the provision of medical centres and education as well.
“A lot of the kids that are being born in this community don’t necessarily want to be miners, so we’ve got to look at ways we can diversify.
“There’s also a lot of opportunities out there in diversification in terms of tourism, agriculture, aquaculture and other innovative ways.
“We’ve got to look at how we can remove the impediments.
“Tax offsets definitely needs to be considered in the mix but it’s not the silver bullet, if you like. There’s a whole lot of other things that need to be addressed.”
The chairwoman of Regional Development Australia’s Pilbara branch, Fiona White-Hartig, says towns like Karratha and Port Hedland face numerous challenges in trying to establish a permanent population.
She draws parallels between the two towns and an established northern city like Darwin.
“They’re finding that their population is not growing,” she said.
“They’ve got mining investment happening there and obviously their FIFO [fly-in, fly-out] is increasing.
“So there is a major challenge there and I think we need to look at economic diversification and making the region a lot more attractive for people to come here and live long-term.
“Hopefully the white paper will provide some direction for us.”
She says tax incentives should be offered to people willing to make the move north.
“I think it needs to be revisited, it hasn’t been looked at for a number of years,” she said.
“I think it’s still around about $1,200 as a rebate, which really isn’t a lot in today’s terms.
“The district allowance for Government employees made a significant difference. If they did make an extra incentive of say 20 to 25, 30 thousand dollars a year, people would look at coming here seriously and look at a long-term plan.”
Courtesy of ABC News