This month I attended the 11th annual WA Major Projects Conference in Perth. The forum attracted more than 250 delegates and 25 speakers who delivered presentations on some of the principal infrastructure projects that are underway or in the pipeline in WA.
I spoke about our Council’s preparation for the next major construction phase in the resources sector, with some $65 billion of projects planned in the Pilbara which will impact Karratha in some way over the next few years.
These include the huge Scarborough and Browse gas projects, but also involve a suite of major new iron ore mines and railways, port developments, gold, salt, urea, methanol and potash projects.
There is also a keen interest in renewable energy, with some of our region’s biggest companies exploring solar power, wind, hydrogen and renewable ammonia as zero-carbon and cost-effective solutions to their energy requirements.
During the last construction phase from 2004 to 2014, rents and house prices skyrocketed because demand outweighed supply and at one point Karratha was Australia’s fastest growing town. When construction ended, many home owners could not afford their mortgage repayments and property values and rents plunged.
At the time, we had limited land available to build on, and power, water supply and sewerage treatment plants were at maximum capacity. Since then, major improvements have been made to this essential infrastructure so none of these are currently limitations to development.
We have also built many new community facilities, revitalised the CBD, upgraded our Airport, constructed swimming pools and sports facilities, libraries, our theatre and much else to make our towns equal to anywhere.
Council continues to work to diversify our economy and so reduce our reliance on the commodities market. We are supporting a range of new energy, transport and industrial initiatives.
Housing is one of the community’s biggest pressure points at the moment and Council is considering opportunities to co-invest in property developments to alleviate the current undersupply of residential housing. This problem is anticipated to worsen over the next few years as these new projects progress and our population grows.
No commitment to proceed with any of the proposals has yet been made but we expect community consultation on preferred developments will be undertaken in the next few weeks.