The Pilbara region covers an area of 502,000 square kilometres in the north of Western Australia and includes the Shires of Ashburton, Roebourne, East Pilbara and the Town of Port Hedland. It extends from the Indian Ocean coast to the Northern Territory border. Perth is over 1,200 kilometres south.
The harsh physical climate and geography of the Pilbara create many challenges for planners and designers who must deal with high temperatures, a cyclone season and long spells of rainless days. The coastal towns are humid with a typical wet season from December to February. Inland, the towns can experience extreme high temperatures and dry conditions for extended periods.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the Western World brought a singular industrial and commercial might to facilitate the creation of towns in the Pilbara. This has occurred by responding to immediate needs rather than a planned, longer term vision for Pilbara communities. As a result, the supporting infrastructure is struggling now to service the ongoing growth of these towns.
The remote location further complicates the potential livability in the Pilbara towns. Living expenses are significantly higher than other Australian towns. This affects, in turn, social sustainability through lack of amenity and identity, particularly for the indigenous communities which are often found on the fringes of townships both literally and socially.
Environmental sustainability needs to be addressed now, prior to further growth, to ensure intelligent, integrated and sensitive expansion occurs. Economic, social and environmental sustainability are intrinsic to the future of the Pilbara.