Firstly, I would like to thank Nana Pansy Hicks for her Welcome to Country and also acknowledge the Ngarluma people on whose traditional lands we are gathered here this evening, and also our neighbours – the Yaburarra, Yindjibarndi, Marthudunera, Wong-oo-tt-oo and those farther afield.
I would also like to acknowledge: • The Hon. Dr. John McVeigh MP, Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government, Representing the Prime Minister • The Hon. David Templeman MLA, Minister for Local Government; Heritage; Culture and the Arts, Representing the Premier • The Hon. Melissa Price MP, Federal Member for Durack • The Hon. Kevin Michel MLA, Local Member for the Pilbara • Megan O’Neill, Woodside Energy Chief Operations Officer • Ivan Vella, Rio Tinto Managing Director Supply Chain and Services • Susan Hunt PSM, Lotterywest Chief Executive Officer
Well, isn’t this just wonderful! As has been said and appreciated by so many, this is a remarkable building, a fabulous addition to our City – and all the more so because it has been constructed in one of the remotest regions the nation – the incomparable Pilbara. It has been an enormous effort, and I would like to give an outline of what we did and thank the many people who have made this precinct what it is today.
I have been one of those involved with this project from the start – and in fact it was one of my election commitments when I first became a Councillor in 2011, not too long after our previous theatre, the Walkington, was finally condemned as unfit for further use and then closed forever. So I have been privileged to see our Red Earth Arts Precinct progress from an idea, to an architect’s broad-brush concept, to a definite, iconic design and through the major construction project until its culmination now, 7 years later.
Unfortunately, the Pilbara has been too often seen as a place to come and make some big money, and then leave to live somewhere else. And so, apart from the grand old buildings of the 19th century, Pilbara architecture was really non-existent. Buildings were built to be cheap and functional, so they generally looked the same as you would see in Perth or anywhere south of the 30th parallel. The attitude was “Why bother? The iron ore will run out in 20 years’ time and it’s too hot to live here anyway!”
Well the iron ore didn’t run out in 20 years, nor in 50 years and now they say there is 100 years more – and there is also solar salt and domestic gas and LNG and ammonia and magnetite and LPG and condensate and ammonium nitrate – some $45 billion worth which we export from our City – and they are just the major exports.
So we wanted a building that would last, that represented the Pilbara and its unique landscape. We wanted something that was iconic – that epitomised Karratha, the land of the good country – and a building that would support and inspire our community for decades. As you can see, we have been fortunate to get it.
You will notice this building is unique – stunning in outline, individual in shape, distinctive in colour and profoundly interesting. Its profile and tone reflects the Karratha Hills behind and its angular lines imagine the angular piles of broken rock that characterise the Burrup Peninsular. Inside, this theme is reiterated with the triangular ceiling panels, each one different like the Murujuga stones, and the feeling of being in one of our steep-sided valleys, cosy and secure with splendid views out to our amazing Pilbara environment.
It has been a long road and required a lot of work – not just by the project development team, but also by the executive group at the City who spent many hours producing business plans and glossy documents to prove to politicians, both State and Federal, that this was a project worth supporting. Many trips to Canberra and Perth were made, and I can assure you it was never a sure thing that we would get any significant support. It was touch and go to the last, but the high quality of work undertaken by our people here was what made the difference.
Early in the process, the previous Director of Community Development, Andrew Ward and I travelled to most of the major theatres and many libraries in Perth and the regions to see what others were doing and to find the latest ideas and techniques. We established a committee of council and invited members of the public to join to ensure we were not trapped in any particular line of thinking. We funded a concept design by a reputable architect, to serve as a discussion point for all and sundry and to establish a reasonable cost estimate for the development. Then we tendered out the architecture a second time and did it all in much more detail again.
We did all this with no external funding – it was our own risk, but one we knew was worthwhile. The advanced state of the design, our detailed business plan, the accurate glossies and many trips to speak to both politicians and public servants did the trick. Our funding applications were successful and gained us $24m million in direct government assistance alone – nearly half the budget. And we were fortunate to get further support from the Woodside-operated North West Shelf Project, Rio Tinto and Lotterywest. In total we received $31.2 M or 58% external funding and the City contributed $22.8 M of its own towards design and construction.
In our City we have developed a philosophy of creating efficiencies by combining purposes in our community buildings. Hence the Leisureplex combines an aquatic centre, with a gymnasium, with sports courts and a business centre. So the REAP combines a library, with an art gallery, with a theatre, with a cinema, with our local history collection. It is designed to accommodate all types of events, from ballet to rock concerts; from cutting edge theatre to major business conferences; from art shows to cinema.
And like the Leisureplex, this is a fun place – a place where people come to be entertained; to see the latest shows, enjoy sensational outdoor events. Or to be creative, to learn and expand their capabilities, whether artistic or intellectual.
So there are many fun times ahead, and I am sure, as you wander through this magnificent facility with its state-of-the-art equipment you will be impressed and will want to come back again and again.
At this point, I would like to say some thankyous – firstly to our Councillors, both past and present, who kept the faith, put their heart and soul into this project and saw it to the end. In particular, I would like to thank Councillors John Lally and Evette Smeathers, who were on the Cultural Precinct Advisory Group from its inception – and who also took on the unenviable task of being on the Public Art Committee! Secondly to Chris Adams and the Executive team who were instrumental in sourcing the funds, hiring the right people, creating and finalising the design and overseeing the work, making sure it was on time, on budget. Andrew Ward who left us just over a year ago was critical in the conceptual design and layout stage; Simon Kott, has been critical in the tendering and construction stage, and Mark Casserly, has been responsible for the commissioning and operation of this facility.
The amazing design of this building was achieved by Brian La Fontaine of Peter Hunt Architect. We very much made the right choice with Peter Hunt: the work is sensational and I would like to thank Brian and his company for this astonishing piece of architecture.
There were many technical experts involved in this building and I do not have time to thank them all, but the work of our construction contractor, Doric, has been exceptional. Doric also built our superb The Quarter office building just down the street, and on the REAP they were on time, on budget and have been excellent to work with. I would like to thank Lance van Drunick – General Manager, Operations; Project Manager, Theo Christou and Site Manager Chris de Costa for their excellent work on this project.
On behalf of the City of Karratha, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to our funding partners, without whom this would not have been possible. The State, through the Royalties for Regions program, has generously supported us. We were also very fortunate to receive the support of the Australian Government, and to have the cheque presented to us personally here on the site by the Prime Minister himself, Mr. Malcolm Turnbull. The Woodside-operated North West Shelf Project, Rio Tinto and Lotterywest have also been generous supporters and we thank them sincerely for their part in this tremendous project.
The City of Karratha is thrilled to be able to provide our community with this magnificent facility and we are really looking forward to seeing arts and culture in the region grow and develop further than ever before. This will become a defining asset for our City and for the entire Pilbara and will assist enormously in achieving our goal to make Karratha renowned as one of regional Australia’s richest artistic hubs.
Thank you for coming to this grand opening ceremony tonight: enjoy the entertainment that follows – and for our visitors, an especially warm welcome. Please take the time to explore our beautiful City and this astounding region, one of the most spectacular places and one of the most economically important areas in our nation.
I would now like to ask our speakers back on to stage for the official unveiling of the plaque (also invite Susan Hunt from Lotterywest for the picture op) Thank-you.