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REIWA Geraldton branch president Phil Sorgiovanni.
SARAH CODDINGTON REIWA Geraldton branch president Phil Sorgiovanni.

Geraldton is well placed to weather delay to the Oakajee project, according to key business and property figures.

Port developer OPR last week announced the axing of 71 jobs, nearly two-thirds of its staff, and the scaling down of operations, citing falling iron ore prices and delays securing key funding partners.

It is understood OPR had only a small staff in Geraldton, which will be cut back to one, but OPR would not confirm this.

REIWA Geraldton branch chairman Phil Sorgiovanni said he regretted the job losses, but a diversified economy made the region relatively unique in regional WA, buffering troughs in any one sector.

He said national media reports on Oakajee often painted an unrealistically negative picture.

He pointed to the region’s agriculture, mining, renewable energy, tourism and growing technology sector as cause for optimism.

“People just do not understand how big the Square Kilometre Array and the National Broadband Network are for us,” he said.

“They are just huge. They are going to bring a lot to Geraldton and the Mid West.”

Mr Sorgiovanni said he did not buy into the notion delays to Oakajee had stalled property activity after a mini-boom in the mid-2000s.

“I think you’ll find the whole world slowed up because of the stockmarkets on October 11, 2008,” he said.

“It wasn’t related to Oakajee or the Mid West.”

He said the Geraldton property market had bounced back and held stable since 2009.

Sales volumes were also up this financial year compared to last year and investors were returning with developments in the CBD and on the foreshore.

Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Bill Headley did not believe OPR’s announcement would have any effect on business confidence.

“Oakajee is a long-term project,” he said.

“It’s needed by the mining companies in the long-term and in my view will happen in the long term.

“What Mitsubishi have done at the moment, or what they’re in the process of doing, is curtailing some of their spend, which is a prudent management decision in the current market.

“Basically all the work and all the money that needs to be spent on the port and the rail, from OPR’s point of view, has been done.

“Now they’re focussing on getting all the approvals and necessary studies done on Jack Hills, which is also known to be a long-life mine.”