Vital infrastructure enables regions to stabilise and mature. When a boom ends, the secondary and tertiary infrastructure remain. Decisions about infrastructure investments determine whether cities either grow then shrink, or grow and multiply. Shared essential services, such as energy and trains, are fundamental to ensuring a productive future. Numerous options for economic diversification have been imagined for the Pilbara. In 1991, the Pilbara 21 report suggested a strategy for the region. While many issues in this report have been addressed, much remains relevant more than two decades later. There are two prevailing opinions on the subject, which are not mutually exclusive. The first is to cluster development in support of the oil, gas and mining industries; the second is to encourage non-resource based developments, particularly agro-industry and renewable energy that build on mining and gas infrastructure. An interconnected energy network in the Pilbara has been debated for decades. Without it, the region will not become self-sustaining. An integrated network would decrease energy intensity and reduce energy consumption, but it would need a co-ordinated governance framework. Using the assets created by natural resource extractors would mean existing capacity could be used more efficiently, and there would be less need for investment. In many ways, the Pilbara is emblematic of Australia today. It has the potential to become a resilient economy and community, and take its place at the top table if the political will exists to do so. The right infrastructure can unlock the potential for the Pilbara to become sustainable, in the biggest sense of the word.
Green, J. & Newman, P. (2014). Power to grow, Griffith Review, 47 [online only].