Pilbara Waste Summit - Mayor Welcome and Introduction


Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this country, the Ngarluma people on whose land we gather today.

I would also like to recognise the traditional owners across our region - the Yindjibarndi, the Marthudunera, the Yaburara, the Won-goo-too and all other Aboriginal peoples, particularly those headquartered here – and pay respect to their elders, past, present, and emerging

I would also like to acknowledge our VIP guests:

  • Hon Stephen Dawson MLC, Minister for Environment; Disability Services; Electoral Affairs

  • Kevin Michel MLA, Member for Pilbara

  • Mike Rowe, Director General of the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation

  • Reg Howard-Smith, Chair of the Waste Authority

  • Michael Aspinall, Chair of Keep Australia Beautiful

  • Cr Doug Thompson, Chair, Municipal Waste Advisory Council

This is the third annual, and the first Waste Strategy Summit we have hosted in Karratha and we are very appreciative of everyone who has come here this week for the event.

The City of Karratha

Ladies and gentlemen, Welcome to our marvellous City of Karratha! I hope you enjoyed the tour you did yesterday. Our City always surprises people who think we are just a dusty mining town where people come to earn some big bucks then go back home to civilised Perth!

That unfortunately is a common WA attitude, much as those east of the WA border think the whole of our State is a hot dusty place with few people and nothing of interest: as we know, none of that is true.

Here in Karratha we live in the heart of the world’s greatest mineral province, which has iron ore, natural gas, oil, lithium, copper, gold, cobalt, manganese, zinc, lead – you name it! We are the cornucopia, the horn of plenty, Aladdin’s Cave – and we are vital to the health of our State and nation.

On top of that, we have the most amazing scenery and natural environment – the Dampier Archipelago and Murujuga National Park - holding the world’s greatest collection of petroglyphs - are on our doorstep. Down the “Red Dog Highway” south of town there is the beauty of the Chichester Ranges and Millstream National Park, while further on we have the magnificent Karijini National Park.

We are surrounded by the rugged beauty of outback Australia – with hardly explored ranges, river pools, coastal inlets and outcrops. We have marvellous 19th century stone buildings in Roebourne and out on the stations, the ghost town of Cossack and ancient Aboriginal sites – everywhere.

I always say, that after Karratha, other places look ordinary!

Karratha is the only City north of Geraldton, and like Hedland, is a Port City – not a mine. Apart from iron ore and LNG we produce and export from here, salt, ammonia, ammonium nitrate, LPG, condensate – domestic gas of course – and soon: renewable hydrogen, magnesium from sea-water, algae and plankton products, oysters and hopefully hydroponically grown vegetables.

We have become a major logistics hub and 700 people are employed at the Gap Ridge Industrial Estate by a range of ASX listed companies who receive and distribute supplies across the Pilbara.

Karratha is about to get a regular bi-weekly shipping service between Dampier and Singapore which we estimate will halve the price of goods imported here.

Rio Tinto is now engaging a shipping company to bring its many container loads of plant, equipment and supplies directly into Dampier for transport by rail and local truck to one of its 16 mine sites. This saves 3000 km of shipping costs – why has this taken 50 years to establish?

The Importance of the Pilbara

The nation has been living off the Pilbara almost totally for the last 6 months, and has been reliant on this area for the last 50 years as a major source of foreign exchange – it is just that people don’t know it. Unfortunately, we don’t make cars, or phones, or televisions, or computers, or heavy equipment in Australia these days. We even import our fuel now – at $46 billion per year it is our second biggest import after machinery. We need to export something to pay for these things – thankyou Pilbara!

The Pilbara exports $100 billion of product annually and the half a million people in regional WA together export $150 billion of mining and agricultural products. The 2 million in Perth export about 10% of that – so you can see why local people get a little upset when government departments have large Pilbara Departments based in Perth, who occasionally travel up here. If COVID has shown us one thing, it is that the Cities depend on the regions and not the other way around.

National Waste Management Issues

Like most Australians, I think, I was shocked to learn a few years ago that recycling in Australia largely means packaging up our rubbish and sending it to China: China??! We have been sending our rubbish 8 or 9000 km across the world for years all in the name of recycling! The greenhouse gas emissions, let alone the cost and impact of the millions of tonnes of fossil fuel this must have taken boggles the mind! And of course we are now in a mess because China changed its mind.

I understand we generate over 70 million tonnes of waste annually in Australia. In regional areas like ours, we have plenty of places to dig holes and bury it – but that is not the way to go!

It is essential that we invest in waste processing facilities to enable the third aspect of the Waste Trilogy: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

In this City, we sincerely hope that the current Federal and State Government funding commitments will go towards developing a resource recovery industry for Australia. And further, we hope that this will attract investment of processing infrastructure that can service the needs of the Pilbara region. This is something we will continue to lobby strongly for.

Karratha and Waste

As an industrial hub, Karratha generates a lot of waste for its size: In the last year, our 7-mile landfill has received over 55,000 tonnes of waste generated by regional industries.

Our City provides a suite of waste collection, disposal, recycling and resource recovery services for our community.

We have a dedicated Waste Services team operating our two major waste management and resource recovery facilities. One of these sites is our 7 Mile Site which comprises of a waste transfer station, tip shop and Class III landfill cells.

Our Class III landfill is fully lined and provides a regional waste disposal option for these industries throughout the Pilbara.

The site also contains a number of resource recovery areas and I’m pleased to report that over 9,000 tons of waste was diverted from landfill last year.

Recycling and Re-use in Karratha

We are continually working to increase landfill diversion through enhanced resource recovery and improving awareness and education.

As those on yesterday’s tour would have seen, we are currently conducting an organics recovery trial at our landfill site. We aim to produce a suitable compost/mulch for use in the city’s parks and gardens using shredded green waste, grass clippings from our mowing operations and food organics sourced from local accommodation camps.

We also divert green waste from our landfill by providing residents with an annual free cyclone verge collection. This year we collected and diverted 199 tons of green waste!

Along with many other councils, we are working on decreasing contamination results for household recycling. We facilitate education programs speaking to the dictators in many homes - the youth (!) – and we also engage and inform our future residents and decision makers on how they can do this.

An exciting recent introduction has been the Containers For Change Scheme, which has been a huge success here with Jake and Jodie of North West Recycling opening a state-of-the-art facility here in our CBD, which has been enormously popular and aligns without main aim to reduce landfill and litter. The City also spent $70,000 supplying container cages to a range of schools and other public sites where people could easily deposit their containers, contributing to making our City one of the most liveable regional cities.

Finally, I was very very pleased to see Australian company Contract Resources establish our country’s first large scale mercury waste treatment facility, with Woodside as its foundation client, here in Karratha. This was a big step and a major risk for a small WA company. However, a facility established locally, to service the toxic waste requirements of a major industry, employing people in the region, saving the crazy amounts of fuel and CO2 emissions previously spent sending that material south to Perth and then over to Switzerland – how good is that?


Ladies and gentlemen, I think you can see that the Pilbara and Karratha in particular is a vitally important, strategic, wealth-producing area of our State and this needs to be supported to make this region as productive as possible.

We understand that innovation, investment and collaboration is the way forward for the future of waste management and resource recovery and we will continue to do all in our power to make these ideas a reality.

Once again, welcome to Karratha! I thank you for your contribution and attendance, and hope you enjoy the rest of the summit.