2020 in review: How we cope with corona

Pilbara News


New FIFO camp causes divide

A 2500-bed FIFO camp on the outskirts of Karratha sparked debate between the City of Karratha and developer Bechtel. When the City approved the Gap Ridge village a condition was the facility did not have a fence surrounding it while developers said a fence was essential to their managing of the facility. The condition was altered for the developer and the City to negotiate a fencing option.

Roebourne artists get Perth exposure

A group of Roebourne artists were chosen to have their works shown to Perth art lovers. Pansy Hicks and Violet and Loreen Samson were three of 40 regional artists picked to have their works displayed at the Alternative Archive Exhibition at John Curtin Gallery later in the year.

New Roebourne top cop

Senior Sergeant Mark Barratt took over the reigns as Roebourne’s officer-in-charge with the hope of bringing police and the community closer together. He began his role in January.

Works on Karratha’s Hilton Garden Inn Hotel begin

Construction of pre-fabricated elements of the long awaited $20 million hotel set in the heart of the Karratha CBD began. The off-site works for the project included the building of the rooms. Main site works were expected to begin in April.


Stage 2 nod for Eliwana

The $1.7 billion Eliwana Mine and Railway project by Fortescue Metals Group was given the all clear to move forward with its second stage of construction. The works included the construction of a 143km railway line connecting the Western Mining hub to the Solomon Hub.

Concert for bushfires

The Karratha community came together for a night of music and entertainment that raised close to $100,000 in funds for bushfire relief efforts. The concert was held at the Red Earth Arts Precinct with nearly 1000 people in attendance.

Cyclone Damien

The Pilbara was rocked by one of the most severe weather to devastate Karratha with gale force winds ripping off roofs, uprooting trees and shutting down the town’s airport. The category-three storm crossed the Dampier coastline at 12.30pm on February 8 bringing gusts of more than 195km/h and more than 230mm of rain.

Housing plan moves forward

A controversial plan to build up to 300 new houses in Karratha was approved by the local council. The local councillors approved a plan to spend up to $35 million to stimulate the housing market.


Indigenous master mariner

A Karratha worker became Australia’s first Indigenous master mariner, meaning he could command any ship of any size in any ocean of the world. Woodside employee Ryan Cobb began his career working in the Broome pearling industry. He planned to use his role to mentor young Indigenous children.

Surging rents force staff out of town

Surging rents in Karratha are forcing an increasing number of struggling families to leave town, including one long-term resident, who said it was cheaper to switch to FIFO to stay working in her beloved community.

Events canned as COVID-19 hits the Pilbara

Iconic events from the Karijini Experience to the North West Festival were put in limbo as restrictions on gathering sizes and 14 day self-isolation period for all international arrivals were put in place amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Burger-joint opening a whopper success

Karratha’s first Hungry Jacks finally opened its doors to the public with drive-through queue travelling back 100s of metres. Cheering locals poured through the doors of the venue eager for a whopper.


Businesses brew means to survive

The Pilbara’s newest brewery is among the swathe of workplaces transforming their services to keep afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic. Karratha’s North West Brewing Co transformed its beer garden into a drive-through to stay open.

Flight ban leaves Pilbara grounded

Karratha and Paraburdoo were among the latest regional destinations left in limbo after airlines cancelled flights in response to COVID-19. Residents were left stranded after Qantas cut routes connecting Perth and Paraburdoo and Perth and Karratha.

Haven for travellers

A picturesque pastoral station offered to be a safe haven for stranded nomads to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic. Nestled in the Ningaloo pastoral region, Gnaraloo Station150km north of Carnarvon, offered travellers the chance to stay while interstate travel was restricted.

NW bush hero in a league of warriors

There’s a new superhero on the block. She’s fast, deadly and inherently awesome. Meet Thylacine — a lethal Aboriginal hunter from the Pilbara and one of DC Comics’ newest Suicide Squad recruits. From WA, the Ngarluma woman boasts the ability to see at night and has deadly combat skills, heightened senses, a steely gaze and stealth.

Food truckers revved up

Proposed changes to the City of Karratha’s stallholder and street-trading policy could see the end of Dreamer’s Hill as a food-truck hotspot — a move vendors strongly opposed. At its April meeting, the City council laid the policy review on the table, but deferred the decision to consider making changes until May, with a City of Karratha spokesperson saying further investigations were needed. Proposed changes included a maximum of three traders per approved location at any one time, no consecutive trading at the same location, and seven new trading locations to disperse vendors and make them accessible to more residents.


Estate to rise on hospital site

An old hospital site was picked to be transformed into a residential area that would boost Karratha’s housing stock by 100 properties. The City of Karratha has given the green light for land that was previously the Nickol Bay Hospital to be rezoned, pending final approval from the WA Planning Commission. Councillors initiated the amendment in April last year, with the City conducting a study that revealed the land could yield 100 dwellings, with potential for aged care, parks, and infrastructure including roads and footpaths.

Smiles as kids return to school

Schools across the Pilbara were back in action as their grounds were flooded with smiling students returning for the start of term two, while some continued learning from home amid coronavirus restrictions. Karratha Senior High School saw attendance figures soar above the State average of 58.5 per cent last Wednesday, with 70 per cent of students stepping back into the classrooms of Karratha’s only public high school for the first day back.

We’re busting out of our borders

Pilbara residents were once again able to travel to the Gascoyne and Mid West regions after border restrictions were eased as part of the State Government’s coronavirus roadmap to recovery. Under phase two of the plan, regional borders were reduced which included combining the Gascoyne, Pilbara and Mid West into one region.

Cell temperatures put prisoners health at risk

The Department of Justice is under fire for ignoring calls to address health risks to prisoners in Roebourne, who are sleeping in cells with overnight temperatures averaging 33C. A report by the Inspector of Custodial Services said the department had continued to reject recommendations to meaningfully address the health risks created by the heat in cells.

New suburb coasts in

A new water front suburb called Mulataga moved a step closer after councillors unanimously passed a motion to adopt the design plan and forward it to the WAPC for final determination. The plan includes a coastal foreshore with a surf club, park and amphitheatre, a primary school and a mixture of houses and apartments, the 171ha area of land is expected to provide 1400 dwellings.


Juukan Gorge destruction leads to law reform

The State Government announced it would reform Aboriginal heritage laws that allowed Rio Tinto to destroy two rock shelters in the Pilbara that had evidence of human occupation dating back 46,000 years. The destruction was caused when the miner detonated charges last month in an area of the Juukan Gorge, about 60km north-west of Tom Price, as part of its mining operations.

New Karratha top cop

Senior Sergeant Danial Strachan took the reins as officer-in-charge at the local station and urged the community to come to police if they had issues rather than posting it online. Sen. Sgt Strachan said if the community noticed an issue, he wanted to hear about it.

Visitors fill up as tourist town opens borders

The Pilbara’s tourism sector was given a much-needed shot in the arm as caravan parks filled up with tourists exploring the north. Restrictions preventing residents from entering the region to limit the spread of coronavirus — lifted for the June long weekend — delivered a crushing blow to operators and accommodation.

Van vendors hope city adopts trial

Karratha food van operators enlisted the help of a local traffic management company to create a revised pop-up truck layout to improve safety at Dreamer’s Hill. The new design was led by vendors and drafted in consultation with Pilbara Traffic Management after the City of Karratha proposed changes to the number of food vendors allowed at each approved location.

Tying the knot up north

A spike in wedding bookings in the Pilbara is bringing a cash injection to local businesses as WA couples look to tie the knot in their own backyard instead of travelling overseas. Elope to Ningaloo, which provides intimate wedding ceremonies on the Ningaloo coast received up to 14 inquiries a week from partners who had planned to get married overseas in Thailand, Santorini, Ireland and Bali.

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