Good evening everyone and thank you for joining us for this significant event.
I would like to extend a special welcome to our esteemed guests this evening: (local members of parliament and any VIPs)
I would also like to acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners, past, present and emerging, of the land on which we meet tonight – The Ngarluma people.
It gives me great pleasure to see so many people closely involved with the history and progress of Karratha here tonight as we mark a very special occasion.
Almost 50 years ago to this day, on August 8 in 1969, Karratha was gazetted as a town.
As many of you would know, the name Karratha means “good country” and was derived from Karratha Station, the pastoral station from which the land was taken to create the town site that has grown over the past five decades to become a thriving regional city.
Borne out of the need for staff housing for Rio Tinto – then Hamersley Iron – the small original community of pioneers rapidly expanded as more resource projects were established, and Karratha continues to grow and prosper today.
As many of you gathered here today would already be aware, the community spirit of hard-working, down-to-earth people who are happy to lend each other a hand is still going strong today and is such a large part of making Karratha a wonderful place to call home.
More and more people continue to come to Karratha and end up settling here. They begin chasing career opportunities but fall in love with our iconic landscape, the relaxed, adventurous lifestyle and the enviable climate we enjoy. Every boom leaves more people who want to stay here and I am sure more still will come as Council strives to achieve its vision of becoming Australia’s most liveable regional city.
My wife, Vicki and I came to Karratha in late June, 1985, for a 6 month contract I had with Bond Petroleum. Bond was then starting construction of its Harriet Oil Project on Lowendal Island – 130 km west of Karratha. The project had an expected 10 year lifespan.
We rented a flat, bought some second hand furniture and I began a 5-on / 2-off FIFO shift from Karratha to what is now Varanus Island. That 6 months steadily extended and 5 years later I was still spending most of my time offshore. Now, 34 years later, my wife and I and the Varanus Island development are still here – though Varanus is worth a bit more than my wife and I – it sold to Santos recently for $3 billion!
We all know stories of people that came for a short time and stayed a lifetime. That is because Karratha is a special place; an exciting place with boundless opportunities to live, work and invest.
For those in private enterprise it is not easy – it takes courage, lots of hard work, careful planning and resilience as our economy goes up and down with world markets. But there are always opportunities for the brave in the Pilbara and it rewards handsomely those who give it a sincere try.
When my wife and I arrived in Karratha in 1985, you had to drive to Port Hedland just to buy a TV! There was a single supermarket here (Farmers) and half a dozen small shops – including what I am sure is the longest established shop in town – Key Spot. Still owned by the Harris family who started it in 1981, there is now a third Harris generation well on the way.
Today’s Karratha is very different to then as we all know, and it took a lot of courage, vision and hard work to get where we are today. But what I find heart-warming is the local family businesses, like the Harris’s who have prospered and our now run by the next generation.
Businesses like Darryl Corps’ Karratha Earthmoving, Mick Joyce’s Joyce Krane, Brian Johnston’s NWTIS, LiftEqiuip & BBS Forks and Kevin Nuttal’s Oceanic Offshore. These are all now substantial and secure businesses, started by men willing to take a risk and prepared to do the hard yards. employing people, contributing to our town, helping to make this a liveable place.
Now in 2019 we have some $65 billion of projects that wish to establish themselves around Karratha and the Pilbara in the next few years. Although no one knows what the future holds, Karratha has many bright prospects on the horizon and I greatly look forward to seeing what the future has in store for us.
So, in wishing our special town a happy birthday, I would like to remember the courage, hard work and resilience of those who have gone before us and finish by quoting Theodore Roosevelt who said:
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
Happy 50th birthday Karratha: may we dare mighty things and win glorious triumphs.
Tonight I would also like to extend a very special welcome to our newest citizens – what an exciting time to officially join our community as Australians.
Once again, thank you all for being here to celebrate this historical occasion together.
I look forward to enjoying the evening and catching up with you all.