In a Shire where towns are separated by long distances, roads are a vital link and high priority for residents, Council and tourists visiting the area. The Shire of Ashburton has 2,601 kilometres of local roads plus responsibility for sealed roads within its townships.
The current road connecting its main township of Tom Price to Karratha on the coast is a winding 370 kilometre gravel road. Lobbying by Council and its neighbouring Shires has led to the Western Australian Government agreeing to construct a more direct sealed road from Tom Price to Karratha. Work on this will commence in October 2002.
It will be a huge difference to the Shire, benefiting residents and tourists alike. Karratha, in the neighbouring Shire of Roebourne has a population almost 15,000 people and is the second largest town in the Pilbara region. The new Karratha to Tom Price road will offer tourists a more convenient, scenic route taking them from the Kennedy Ranges in Carnavon, past Mount Augustus, Karijini and Millstream National Parks, and on to the Burrup Peninsula in Karratha.
The Karratha/Tom Price road will open up new opportunities throughout the Shire of Ashburton. To service residents, local business and tourists, Onslow has an airstrip able to take up to 38 seat jets. However, currently it is located on tidal flats that are subject to flooding on some high tides and in the event of cyclones.
As a result, Council is shifting the airstrip 40 metres that will raise it a further two metres above sea level. Work on the new gravel strip will be finished by the end of this year. At a cost of $1.8 million, $900,000 has been provided by the State Government and a further $300,000 from the Federal Government, with Council meeting the remainder.