So Port Hedland is to get a new marina! But who is going to use it?
I was in the Pilbara for the Melbourne Cup, which everyone knows as ‘the race that stops the nation’. Well, perhaps for the rest of the nation.
Not one taker for the fantastic menu and screening of the race at one of the main watering holes in Newman, the local publican told me. In Port Hedland, at another major venue, about ten people showed up.
Where’s the community spirit, the engagement, the celebration?
It’s simply not encouraged or enabled at present. Tens of thousands of people are not going there to live. They’re going there to work – doing 12-hour days for weeks at a time, counting the days until they get to go ‘home’. They don’t have the time, the energy or the inclination to be part of local life.
Is a new marina (projected for 2020) going to change this? Is it even going to be used if employees are routinely shuttled from their work back to the camp, where all their food and drink is provided by the company in the ‘mess’ (as the locals call it) and where they work, sleep, eat, repeat?
The reality is, many more jobs for the construction of housing and amenities could be created in the local community right now. However, for that to happen, we’d have to abandon the current FIFO practice.
Throwing around expensive pieces of infrastructure isn’t going to help these Pilbara cities grow. That will take a more fundamental change, one that turns disengaged transient workers into locals with families for lasting growth in the area.