Over the past few months, we’ve been helping the Town of Port Hedland with their Strategic Community Plan 2018-2028. Together we’ve been engaging with the community to hear their stories and collate data on what they want for the years to come.
The review of the Strategic Community Plan is a State Government requirement but is also timely due to a number of unforeseen changes in the economy and resource sector.
Because of the ubiquitous and abundant growth of mining towns around Australia during the boom, many forecasted that the future would hold the same steep trajectory.
In the 2010 report, Port Hedland was expected to grow to “at least 40,000 people” by 2025, but in 2016 the Pilbara region saw a population decline for the first time since the boom with the recent ABS census showing a 3.8% drop in the population of Port Hedland from 2011 to 2016.
Michael Spence, a Nobel Prize laureate who is also an emeritus professor at Stanford, told The Atlantic that ambitious projections of growth are often made from the assumption that economics drive development, which is not always the case.
Economists are now arguing that it makes more sense to focus on measures of more holistic well-being.
The Hedland port exported last year over 500, 000,000 tonnes making it the largest single bulk export port in the world, which has meant the relatively small town of 14,469 has heavily swayed with the needs of industry. Residents are now saying that, while industry is important, that they want to become a diverse and vibrant community that’s less reliant on the resource sector and less vulnerable to the boom-bust cycle.
As part of the Strategic Community Planning process, we partnered with the Town of Port Hedland to launch the ‘Live It Tell It’ campaign, one of the most extensive engagement exercises ever rolled out by the Town. The campaign invited a diverse range of residents, key stakeholders and council staff, as well as the Town’s Elected Members, to participate in a number of surveys and exercises through pop-ups, intensive planning workshops, and meetings, to review the current vision, goals and strategy of the Town and to bring to light the priority areas requiring improvement.
Residents, council and stakeholders have voiced a shared desire to collaborate with each other in an effort to achieve positive outcomes and to build a sustainable and cohesive community that people are proud to call home. There is also broad agreement that there needs to be more opportunity for small to medium enterprise to increase economic diversity and create a lively town hub.
Generally, the community wants Hedland to be defined by its vibrancy and opportunities in education, arts and culture, lifestyle, sports and recreation. Affordable living costs is also an issue most people believe needs to be addressed.
While Port Hedland has a lot to boast about, many also talked of worries concerning education, environmental preservation, safety and issues affecting youth in the community.
Verinia Binsaad, Participant at the Youth Uprising, has spent her whole life in Port Hedland and says, because of her family heritage in the area, the town will always be home.
“Everyone here is family to me,” she says, “us kids usually feel our ideas don’t matter but this makes it feel like they do.”
The 2018-2018 Strategic Community Plan will reflect all the input received during the Live It Tell It engagement program. Watch this space for news on its release.