Councillor profiles - Shire President Kerry White Shire of Ashburton

Article image - Councillor profiles - Shire President Kerry White  Shire of Ashburton

Mine country
The Shire of Ashburton is made up of four towns: Tom Price, Paraburdoo, Onslow and Pannawonica. It is 105,000sqkm – half the size of Victoria. It has the largest number of exports in Western Australia. This includes, iron ore and gold. Offshore we have Barrow Island, which has got the Greater Gorgon field on it, which is now producing three trains worth of gas. In Onslow we have the Wheatstone gas project, which is building two trains. The first ship of gas is to leave in September sometime.

Rio Tinto is our major mining company – with ten or twelve mines in the Shire, if not more. We have Fortescue Metals with the Solomon Hub. And Onslow Salt, naturally. New mines are opening up; we are getting bigger and producing more iron ore and gas; plus we’ve got all our pastoralists.

We have several heritage-listed National Parks in our Shire: we’ve got Karijini; we have the Montebello Islands. We have a lot of visitors come. We also have the Mackerel Islands, a very popular tourist spot. We’ve got a lot happening in our Shire.

Small town changes
I live in Onslow and I’ve lived here for 24 years. It’s a very small town and we’ve had to build a whole new town because of Chevron’s Wheatstone Project. We’ve gone from a population of 700 to about 850 and are progressing. In a partnership between Chevron, the State Government and the Shire, we’ve built a new airport and have up to 27 flights coming in a week.

I used to own the supermarket in Onslow and sold that seven years ago. I’ve been on Council for ten years now and was elected Shire President six years ago.

In that time, we’ve seen a lot of changes. We’ve seen the downturn in mining and we’ve seen the highs and lows, but we’re on the right track to pick up again now.

Outside of council hours I enjoy socialising. That’s about it. I’m too old for exercise or anything like that. I would never be a bowler or a golfer – no way. I haven’t got time for that.

I enjoy every day. To be able to make our towns look better is very rewarding; seeing new buildings go up and to see the communities happy, that is my goal – to make sure that all our communities are happy living where they live.
Projects in the pipeline
Because of the Royalties for Regions project we’ve got some money to revitalise Tom Price and Onslow and that has helped. We’ve just been given a $9million grant from the Federal Government’s Building Better Region Fund to go with $2million from Chevron and $1.5million from the Shire to build a class-four waste disposal site in Onslow – which is just the second of its kind in the state of WA.
We have a new marine supply base – servicing boats and rigs offshore – hopefully that that will create 150-odd jobs.

A specific highlight was obtaining the $5million grant from the Pilbara Development Commission to build a community hub at Paraburdoo. That was six years of hard work and was a relief and an excitement when we got it to go with the $6million we already had from Rio Tinto. We’re going to be turning the sod in six months time and that will be a very exciting moment to have a purpose-built building for Paraburdoo.

I’d also like to thank BHP for their $5million for basketball courts and a skate park and Chevron for their $7million for a swimming pool in Onslow.

Going the distance
I travel between Perth and Onslow a fair bit for meetings and over to Tom Price, which is 480kms one-way. All our councillors have to do that. You take three days out of your life every month travelling to attend meetings. All our councillors love their towns. I thank them very much indeed.

The distance between us will always be challenging. Having four towns to look after is a challenge, naturally. You’ve got to have activities in each town. You’ve got to have offices; you’ve got to have cleaners and garden people for each town. We all have to work together to achieve something for each place and keep everybody happy.

The best part of being a councillor is giving back to the communities that have trusted to vote for us all and know that we have their interests at heart. There’s still a lot to be done, but we’re all working diligently – as finances permit things roll out.

Into the future I hope to retire – gracefully. But, there are a few more goals: to see our waste disposal site up and running; to build new shire offices in Tom Price – there’s still a few challenges to go.