Tumultuous times for us all

Caitlyn WattsPilbara News


Heritage town now State Government’s responsibility

The City of Karratha ended its management of the Pilbara ghost town of Cossack and handed responsibility back to the State Government after more than 20 years. The City said it was not able to achieve its vision to activate and develop the town because the State Government failed to support its plans.

Food trucks face brakes

A petition with 1714 signatures was presented to the City of Karratha urging the local food vendors to stay operating together. Despite the petition, the City advertised for the new stallholder and street trading policy to go out to public comment.

Half-price land boost

Land prices in the Pilbara were slashed as part of a $116 million package to make land more affordable in regional WA. The Regional Land Booster package was announced by Lands Minster Ben Wyatt and included 376 vacant lots across Karratha slashed in price.

In Madigan Estate in Karratha, prices were reduced by $24,000 with blocks to start at $95,000.

Fraud charges hit home

Four Department of Justice employees were charged in relation to allegations they fraudulently made claims for subsidised housing assistance they were not entitled to in Karratha. John Carton, Jasmine Hepi, Kerrie Garstone, and Toni Van Den Berg were each charged and faced Karratha Magistrate’s court.


Third Indigenous death in custody in six weeks

An Aboriginal prisoner took his own life at Roebourne Regional Prison. The 47-year-old male was found unconscious in his six-man dormitory by prison officers. The death marked this third Indigenous death in custody in WA in six weeks.

$67m schools boost to improve learning

Roebourne District High School, Karratha Senior High School and Wickham Primary received a share in $67m as part of WA’s COVID-19 recovery plan. The money will go towards upgrading and expanding school facilities.

Food van ruling angers traders

Karratha food truck vendors were outraged they would no longer be able to trade together in a group of more than five as outlined by the City of Karratha’s new stallholder and street trading policy. The decision was made to implement the change by the council and meant the end of “food market” style nights at Dreamers Hill.


Warning after gorge rescue

Tom Price emergency services urge travellers to Karijini National Park to be cautious after a string of gorge rescues. The increase in the number of rescues came as a high number of tourists flocked to the park amid COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Heads roll at Rio over cave blasts

Rio Tinto chief executive Jean-Sebastien Jacques, Perth-based iron ore chief Chris Salisbury and corporate relations boss Simone Niven left the company over the destruction of ancient Indigenous rock shelters at Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara. The decision came as shareholders intensified calls for Rio Tino to escalate its response to the blasting of the 46,000-year-old shelters at its Brockman mine in May.

Twiggy’s luxury resort plan

The first pictures of Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s proposed $85m Ningaloo Lighthouse Resort in Exmouth were revealed, showcasing world-class amenities and a sustainable design set to transform the tourist town of Exmouth. The resort would include powered caravan sites, eco tents, villas and hotel rooms with a capacity of 550 guests.


Top footy honour for club stalwart

Passionate Dampier Football Club stalwart Russell “Emu” Turner was crowned the top football volunteer in WA. Turner had been with the Sharks since 1997 and had his efforts recognised at the Sandover Medal count in Perth where he received the WA Football Volunteer of the Year award.

Winner has leadership ambitions

Karratha beauty Kasuanna Hunter-Aragu was crowned the 2020 Pilbara Girl at the finale in Broome. Miss Hunter-Aragu, 24, took out the titles after taking part in self-development workshops, photo shoots and catwalk parades. The mother of two said she had turned her life around and hoped to be a leading example for other young women and her children.

Calls to revive a heritage gem

Lands Minister Ben Wyatt called for registrations of interest to develop the historic town of Cossack.

The call-out would favour proposals including low-impact tourism, high quality eco-tourism, low-cost camping, cafes or galleries. The call-out came despite the State Government rejecting many plans in the past with similar visions.


Round the clock shopping

The highly anticipated $17m Tambrey Shopping Village in Nickol opened, featuring a brand new 24/7 Good Grocer IGA, pool shop, kebab shop, kids play centre and bar. The new centre offered Karratha residents living in the western end of town a closer shopping alternative to the CBD.

Zac morphs from a Giant into an Eagle

The Pilbara’s very own Zac Langdon became the second Dampier product to make it to the AFL, after champion ruckman Dean Cox. Langdon was the first deal of the 2020 trade period and was snapped up by the West Coast Eagles after playing for Greater Western Sydney, bringing him back to his home State.

Tourism push to diversify

The Shire of Ashburton branched out by promoting its world-class tourism attractions in a bid to diversify its economy and bounce back from COVID-19.

The Shire covers the second biggest area of all local government zones in WA and boasts some of the most beautiful landscapes in Australia, including the Karijini and Millstream Chichester national parks, along with towns such as Onslow and Tom Price.

Tom Price actor lands plum role

Innawonga actor Shaka Cook landed the role of a lifetime and was cast in the Australian version of the hit US Broadway musical Hamilton. Cook, who grew up in Tom Price, will make his professional musical theatre debut playing Hercules Mulligan and James Madison in the show that tracks the history of the US and its founding fathers.


Nic Nat’s visit a boon for the local kids

All-Australian West Coast Eagles ruckman Nic Naitanui visited Karratha to host the City of Karratha sporting awards as well as a footy clinic.

Naitanui was also seen at Karratha’s only nightclub, Evolution Lounge Bar, where he DJd and rapped some lines by Tupac before taking to the dance floor to the 1989 hit Jump Around.

Thumbs-up for grog register

The two-year trial to block problem drinkers from purchasing takeaway alcohol in the Pilbara began. The banned drinkers register aims to curb alcohol related crime in the region and means everyone must display photo ID when purchasing takeaway alcohol.

$20m hotel project endures another delay

Works on the $20m luxury hotel set to be built in the centre of Karratha was delayed yet again, despite the project developer stating it would begin the month before. The latest update from private Queensland-based company Pacifica Developments stated site preparation for the Hilton Garden Inn would begin before Christmas and on-site construction was expected to start in February.

The large-scale project, which the City of Karratha has committed $10m towards, was originally expected to begin construction in April, but was set back by the onset of COVID-19, with builders struggling to guarantee their supply chain.

Bard’s bell tolls for gifted Tess

A young, aspiring Karratha actor was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from Australia’s most accomplished actors, directors and educators. Karratha Senior High School student Tess Withnell, 16, was selected to travel to Sydney to attend the Bell Shakespeare headquarters in July 2021. Tess was the successful recipient of the John Bell scholarship which offers young actors from regional Australia the chance to participate in a week-long program.

Staff wary of borders

The softening of the WA hard border did little to ease worker shortages plaguing the Pilbara. Local businesses did not find workers to be flocking to the region despite WA opening up to other States. Businesses that struggled in particular to attract employees included those in the accommodation and dining sector.

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