Roxby Downs Anniversary | QUESTION TIME


Dr HARVEY (Newland) (14:09): My question is to the Minister for Energy and Mining. Can the minister update the house on the 30th anniversary of Roxby Downs?

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (14:09): Thank you very much to the very capable member for Newland. Yes, I can, and members of this chamber will remember that I have spoken before about the 30th anniversary of Olympic Dam, and the question here was about Roxby Downs. Those two terms are used interchangeably by many people, but of course Olympic Dam is the mine and Roxby Downs is the town.

Thirty years ago, on 5 November 1988, the town of Roxby Downs was officially opened following the discovery of the world-class Olympic Dam mine. Of course, now, the Olympic Dam mine and the town of Roxby are well ensconced in outback South Australia. Roxby Downs is actually a town that is a very important service centre for the outback. It was started, obviously, as a service centre for the mine—a place for people to live, a place for people to shop, a place for people to have their children in school, as well as doctor services and a whole wide range of things.

That has grown, fortunately, to support an enormous number of people who live in the outback near there; in fact, as I was fortunate to do—to live 90 kilometres away from Roxby Downs for seven years when I lived at Pimba and Woomera, not that long ago. So, it is a fantastic town. 

It started from nothing. It actually started from just an area on a sheep and cattle station in the desert. In fact, when the mine was started and when the Roxby Downs township was established, there was a dirt road to the town. It was a very famous dirt road because it was a hard dirt road to get through. If it was hot and dry, there were punctures all over the place. If by chance there had been the good fortune to have rain in the district, then it was a sloppy, messy road that was very hard to traverse as well.

The town started essentially as a tent city, and now is comparable to any suburban area of any capital city at the moment, and it still has fantastic services for the people who work there in the local community. Interestingly, initially all of the businesses in the town were owned by then Western Mining and now by BHP. That changed over time, of course, but they did want to have fairly strong control over the town and the people who went there, and that is not unusual at all in a mining town. All of the business owners had to lease their premises from then Western Mining.

Interestingly, the very first time I went there in 1993 it was still Western Mining. I was working with BP at the time, which was a 49 per cent shareholder with Western Mining. Things have changed a lot since then, so we are grateful to Western Mining for having started the township of Roxby Downs, and we are grateful to BHP for having continued its stewardship of the town. It still doesn’t operate as a council in the way that we would expect most towns to work, and it is also not supported by the Outback Communities Authority in the way that most small outback towns are outside of the incorporated areas.

There is actually an administrator who oversees the town of Roxby Downs for the good of the local people, but, as is probably quite fair, still with a view to making sure that its primary purpose is to be a good—in a wide range of different ways—local community for people whose employment is tied to the mine either directly or indirectly, and that the town works in that vein so that it remains a good town to support the mine.

The mine is an enormous part of South Australia’s economy. The population of Roxby Downs is in the low thousands at times, pushing towards 4,000 people. There is a police station there that supports an enormous part of outback South Australia. There are social venues, schools, sporting facilities, a supermarket and a wide range of activities there, which I say again not only the people of Roxby Downs can enjoy but also tourists from all over Australia and other parts of the world in fact, as well as those people who live in the surrounding outback area who value the town as well. Thank you to BHP for looking after that town so well.