In Pilbara towns, election signs are abundant but hide in plain sight. They don’t carry the name of the candidate or the party, but everyone knows what they mean.
It’s because of the green and gold livery of Royalties for Regions — the $1 billion war chest funding Brendon Grylls’ assault on the traditional Labor stronghold.
“Put it this way, I’ve been here for 34 years,” says Sam Arif, a fitter with BHP Billiton in Port Hedland.
“Other parties, I’ve seen nothing done. Luckily for us, Brendon has been in the right time, the right position and he’s managed to get all these things built.”Mr Arif , no Nationals partisan, chats as he and partner Julie Hunt volunteer at the Cash for Trash.
Port Hedland has no recycling program so Cash for Trash pays 10¢ a glass bottle and $2 for a garbage bag of aluminium cans in a bid to clean up the streets.
Mr Arif is also involved with a volunteer flatback turtle monitoring program — both for the local group Care for Hedland. Its chairman is Kelly Howlett — the popular Port Hedland mayor and Labor’s big hope to retain the seat.
“(Grylls) has got things going for him because of Royalties for Regions, but Kelly has been doing a lot of work,” Mr Arif said.
Ms Howlett is a true grassroots environmentalist who ran for the Greens in 2008 and cancelled her membership to seek Labor preselection, which stunned her friends.
Mr Grylls has the higher profile but Ms Howlett has a notional 7.7 per cent buffer and supporters say she has door-knocked relentlessly.
On Finucane Island, Gary Nicol is wetting a line in the shadow of BHP’s giant iron ore export facility.
A harbour pilot, he says Mark McGowan seems like a “straight shooter” but that the Federal Government’s approach to the mining industry hurts WA Labor.
“There’s a $20 billion development here (BHP’s outer harbour expansion) that’s on hold because of Julia Gillard’s policies,” he said.
Mr Nicol, who moved to Hedland with his wife six months ago for work, says “it all comes down to liveability and infrastructure”.
And that’s Mr Grylls’ trump card. South Hedland is being reshaped, the new stadium is open and the water park will be soon.
In Karratha the transformation is ever starker, with areas unrecognisable after five years with high-rise units in the retail core and new subdivisions stretching west.
That’s where Josh Goodman, Matt Franken and Mr Franken’s two-year-old son Nils muck around in a new skate park at Nickol West.
“They seem to be building new sporting complexes and things like that, which is good,” Mr Franken said. “The main street is getting done up. It’s getting pretty flash.”
He’s seen Mr Grylls “floating around quite a bit”.
“You just see his name everywhere,” he said.His name — and Royalties for Regions dollars.
'The West Australian' is a trademark of West Australian Newspapers Limited 2013.
All rights reserved.
Select your state to see news for your area.