A pilot project in Port Hedland championed by BHP could revolutionise the way government, businesses and community groups collectively respond to social issues in small towns. 

High-level representatives from the Town of Port Hedland, BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue Metals Group, Roy Hill and WesTrac met police and community groups yesterday to set a fresh agenda to solve social problems in the town. 

Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco said a new body, in which government, industry and community groups worked together to achieve positive outcomes, would be a first for the town. 

“Local, State and Federal governments don’t interact and there is no one overseeing community programs, which is a real problem for government services in general,” he said. 

“And that’s why we’ve ended up with social problems in the town. Hedland is significant to the national economy and we can’t be fighting each other. We need to be working together.” 

Mr Blanco said it was important Port Hedland diversified its economy to create employment opportunities. 

“Currently there’s limited job opportunities for kids growing up in the town, and we need to change that,” he said. 

BHP Iron Ore Boss Edgar Basto — who has been involved in a similar program at Antofagasta in Chile, the nearest town to the mining giant’s massive Escondida copper mine — said the more inclusive the program, the more robust it would be. 

“What we found in Chile was that a collaborative approach based on trust generated strong momentum,” he said. 

If successful, the project could be replicated in other towns.

Image: BHP Iron Ore Boss Edgar Basto, The West Australian