Building strong partnerships the key
Following the discovery of rich iron ore deposits in the 1960s, a number of the Shire’s main towns were established as closed mining towns. During the 1980s, the Western Australian Government commenced a process of ‘nomalisation’ bringing these towns back under State and Local Government control.
“In the case of Tom Price, our agreement with Hamersley Iron is nearly complete,” said Steve Deckert, Council’s Chief Executive Officer. “As the Shire now has control of most of the infrastructure, the issue of ageing roads, drains and community facilities needs to be dealt with.
“Although the ongoing cost of upkeep and maintenance is included in Council’s Forward Plan, extensive distances between our four main towns, the running of offices in each town, and the cost of carrying out works due to our remote location, places a huge financial strain on Council. Around 70 per cent of Council rates are raised from residential properties with limited amounts coming from mining and pastoral concerns. Council is working in partnership with the State Government and Hamersley Iron to look at these funding issues so as to not place too much burden on our residents.”
Steve Deckert said that the normalisation process has led to a more diversified community, however, as a mining town, people had most services provided free of charge. This has presented Council with the challenge of building community ownership and encouraging residents to be involved in the running and maintaining of facilities.
“When created, the towns were fairly sterile,” Steve Deckert said. “For example, our ovals in Tom Price were known as number one and number two ovals. They have now been renamed the Tjiluna Oval, recognising our Indigenous heritage; and to commemorate his efforts in promoting junior football, the Clem Thompson Memorial Oval.”
Similar to most Outback areas, volunteerism in Ashburton is a vital part of community life. Council has also been actively working with the community to promote public artworks. Residents have been involved in the painting of murals now adorn many community facilities. Through grants from Arts WA, murals on walls at the Tom Price swimming pool, sports pavilion and drive-in theatre are just some examples of the breadth of local talent and strong community involvement in art and crafts.
Council continues to work in close partnership with both new and established businesses in the Shire. The recent establishment of Onslow Salt has dramatically increased this coastal township’s population. The Shire’s close relationship with this new enterprise is helping to optimise the economic spin offs this new industry is providing the local economy. Council also works closely with Robe River through a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the township of Pannawonica, which remains a closed mining town. This MOU clarifies the respective roles of the State Government, mining company and Council.
“The Shire meets regularly with all major stakeholders, including mining groups, pastoralists and aboriginal communities, to further enhance working together for the benefit of the whole area,” Steve Deckert said. “Similarly, in all our forward planning we undertake extensive community consultation, including a large input from local youth. Our Shire wide Lifestyle Plan developed in 1998 aimed to build a community identity. Originally a cultural plan, this has now been broadened to include economic development and tourism. This ongoing consultation process is used to identify trends providing a guide that links into Council’s Strategic Plan.”