Author: Karli Florisson
Published: January 03, 2020
In 1898, Esperance was poised to become one of the most important and strategic towns in Western Australia. Known as the ‘Gateway to the Goldfields’, the town was booming. People were arriving regularly to travel to the Goldfields to join the gold rush, new businesses opening, and the town’s population expanding rapidly. Premier John Forrest visited the town and promised that a railway would be built between Kalgoorlie and Esperance. Due to the concern that Esperance would take business away from the Fremantle Port, this vital railway did not eventuate. Instead, a railway was built between the Goldfields and Fremantle. The boom times for the town died away, leaving Esperance as a sleepy little farming town once more.
Since those early days, Esperance has gone through many ups and downs. Many locals are undoubtedly glad that Esperance remained more of a ‘hidden gem’ than the bustling metropolis that was predicted in 1898. Instead, growth in the town has been slow and steady. For many locals, 2019 was a tough year. There were fewer employment opportunities in town, with the Port slowing down, as well as a decrease in construction projects. Low rainfall and severe, widespread frosts led to a tough year for farming in the region. The historic Esperance Motor Hotel closed its doors. The town was divided over the future of the Tanker Jetty, which saddened many in the community. But Esperance is a resilient community, and already, 2020 is shaping up to bring new developments and new opportunities to the town. We appear to be entering a new period of economic and cultural growth for our town. Here are just a few of the things that 2020 will bring for Esperance.
While Esperance locals are sad to say farewell to our much-loved Tanker Jetty, the community is looking forward to the construction of a new jetty, starting in 2020. South Australian based Maritime Constructions is proposing to start construction in February or March of 2020 and hopes that the development will take around eight months. Maritime Constructions has committed to using a significant amount of local labour and contractors and will be taking on a local trainee for the project as well. While the construction will boost the local economy, a finished Jetty will undoubtedly be great for tourism in the town as well.
Along with the new jetty, construction will be completed on the new Indoor Sports Stadium in 2020, providing a much-needed upgrade to our sporting facilities.
The closure of the Ravensthorpe Nickel Mine in late 2017 led to the loss of many local jobs, which also directly affected the Esperance economy. The announcement in 2019 that the mine would reopen was good news for Ravensthorpe, Hopetoun, and Esperance. High nickel prices led to First Quantum Minerals deciding to restart the project for the third time, as demand for renewable energy sources helped to fuel the demand for nickel.
In Norseman, gold mining company Pantoro has purchased a 50% stake in Norseman’s primary gold mine, and mining production in the town is set to ramp up in 2020 as well. This is excellent news for the little mining town, but will also provide jobs and economic benefits for Esperance locals.
In Munglinup, the proposal to mine graphite from the rich deposits in the area looks set to begin in 2020 as well. These regional mining projects will all contribute to the Esperance economy, as well as bringing benefits to the regional towns themselves.
Expanded operations at the Koolyanobbing Mine Site in 2020 are set to bring a fresh lot of iron ore through the Esperance Port. Esperance’s rail yard is set to reopen early in the year, with increased employment by the railroad operations and by the Port, as iron ore is shipped through the town. This will lead to an increase in jobs and growth for Esperance as well.
The Esperance Ocean Grown Abalone venture continues to progress towards being realised. A feasibility study is currently in the works and should be completed early in 2020. This venture would see an abalone hatchery and facility to be built at Wylie Bay. Once the project is fully up and running, there will be potentially up to 500 tonnes of abalone exported from Esperance every year.
The Lucky Bay Brewery opened its new facility at Bandy Creek just before Christmas and is in full swing brewing and serving local beers. The success of this local venture will hopefully inspire other local entrepreneurs.
Along with business and industry, Esperance is home to a vibrant arts scene. The Cannery Arts Centre, Esperance Community Arts, and an amazing array of home-grown musicians are just the start. This summer has been another incredibly strong tourist season, and the town has swelled to encompass visitors from around the country and the world. The markets continue to grow and expand, and cultural events such as the Edge of the Bay continue to go from strength to strength.
Amongst all of these great opportunities and possibilities for the town in 2020, Esperance has been able to retain our small-town community heart. Over the summer holidays, stories of kindness from strangers have abounded on social media, and tourists often report on the friendliness of locals. Esperance locals are a passionate and diverse bunch, which makes for some strong opinions. Still, it also makes for a kind, generous and vibrant community. As the town goes from strength to strength in 2020, we hope that this kindness will remain at the heart of Esperance.