Life in Karratha...what's it like?

Submitted: Monday, Mar 02, 2009 at 20:26
ThreadID: 66445 Views:24074 Replies:10 FollowUps:5
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Hoping someone can provide me with some info on Karratha. Have done some research and the majority of it is all positive ;) Lovely "winter" months, great fishing, marine life, 4wding. Obviously the summer is insanely hot and living expenses are high too....
This might be a silly question, but are there alot of flies or mosquitoes? What facilities are available eg: Hospitals, shopping? How easy is it to find employment over there?
Any information or advice would be very much appreciated. THANKS!!
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Reply By: toyocrusa - Monday, Mar 02, 2009 at 20:46

Monday, Mar 02, 2009 at 20:46
Hi. My brother has recently sold up and retired from Dampier and Rio Tinto after 38 years. We have visited many times over those years and like you say,insanely hot in summer. We have experienced 44 deg. I don't think flies and mossies are any worse than other areas and there are sandflies in some areas as well. Karratha is the main town and it has a great shopping centre and hospital. also good schools and service industries. They found the population changing a bit over the last few years to be not people wanting to stay long term but to mainly take the big money for a few years and then depart. I think it would be a case of making the effort to fit in and you could make a great lifestyle. Can't comment on work as the downturn in the economy has definately slowed the mining industry down at the moment. regards, Bob.
AnswerID: 351913

Reply By: j9 - Monday, Mar 02, 2009 at 20:54

Monday, Mar 02, 2009 at 20:54
Thank you for the info Bob!! Much appreciated!
AnswerID: 351916

Reply By: dusty rover - Monday, Mar 02, 2009 at 21:00

Monday, Mar 02, 2009 at 21:00
Karratha is a nice place, good shops etc. Some great areas to explore, Millstream, Karijini National Park.
Houses/Rent is extremly expensive
Good fishing
The movie theatre has just shut down.

AnswerID: 351918

Reply By: j9 - Monday, Mar 02, 2009 at 21:10

Monday, Mar 02, 2009 at 21:10
Hi Dusty Rover! I am 24 years old, female,Are there many young people there? What about availablity of office/admin jobs?
AnswerID: 351921

Follow Up By: get outmore - Monday, Mar 02, 2009 at 22:48

Monday, Mar 02, 2009 at 22:48
i would imagine it would be simular to kalgoorlie - mostly young people - just not many of them Female

my missus worked there a while back and had to shuffle between overflow camping areas (3 day stay max) until her job and accomadation started

i would imagine getting work would be easy - getting work that payed enough for the rent would be alot harder
FollowupID: 620133

Reply By: Flywest - Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 02:17

Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 02:17
Rents is a killer if you don't have your accoms provided.

The beachfront house we had in Pt samson used to rent out for $2K a week.

Karratha prices aren't much better.

Karratha has OK shopping and Hospitals etc.

Works easy to find - when we were there within the last 12 months, EVERY business in the LIA had "staff wanted" signs posted out front.

Heres the problem

Even if you made sandwiches at the lunch shop in the LIA and they paid you 2K a week(which they won't/can't), your rent on a grass square in the Cvan park to put up a tent was about $600 a week. Add in fuel near 2 ucks a liter and food at 2 times the cost of Perth supermarkets and you couldn;t afford to live.

Same with a tradesman

Say he needs to make, $1K a week to provide / run his work ute and tools and maintenance etc, then he needs say $1500 a week for a SMALL 3drm house....thats $2.5 K a week before he gets any takehome pay - as an employer you HAVE to pay $4 or $5 a week to be able to get anyone to work and stay!

Theres heaps and heaos of work - its just that unless you have a prent that owns a house there and cheap rent - you can't make any cash there....

Some of the businesses have houses they bought 20 years ago that they use as part of the job package to be able to attract tradesmen at a wage they can afford.

Anyone like refrigeration mechanics and diesel fitters etc - can find MORE work than you can poke a stick at - its just that unless you charge out at $1K a DAY - you can't survive up there, because things are so expensive. Which employers gonna pay you $5K a week (250K a year) to work up there?


Thats why EVERY business in the LIA has staff wanted signs and can't get or keep staff!

Thats WHY all the mining cos prefer to fly their workers in out rather than accomodate them.

Staff are so short, the mining cos are chartering jets from the airport to Brisbane abd back once a week on tuesdays to try and get workers outta queensland - the sparky who rewired our fuse board, was from Brisbane I kid you not.

2 days work $5K

The mining cos charter jets to fly Port Headland to Karratha and back every day so their staff can get the few available accoms in Pt Headland and work in Karratha, its cheaper than building staff accoms in Karratha.

A plumbing job that cost me $270 in parts and took me 2 hours was quoted at $2.7K by the local plumbers.

NOTHING in Karratha involving a tradesman costs under a grand - in fact unless you pay em a grand they won't even come and quote - thats what their time is worth to them.

We waited over 3 months for a refrigeration guy to come back and finnish a air con job - and he never showed, in the end I bought a part myseelf off the internet had it posted and fixed it myself.

There simply are very very few eligible young women in the Karratha area, compared to the numbers of randy young fly in fly out guys and permanenet workers.

Those that are there get hasselled so much its a REAL problem in the community.

Sand flies are the killer in the heat & 44 is a good day, 48 is HOT!

The heat takes it's toll - lots of the big supply wholesale businesses are in big warehouses (steel) with limited if any air con...

In summer - the staff when you walk in for service have that dehydrated / disinterested / don't want to be here/ don't want to service you, look on their face and you can hardly blame them, it is oppressive humid heat in the mnsoon season is the ONLY way to describe it.

Quite simply if you don't have job on offer paying at least 300 - 350 K a year - then your wasting your time even thinking about going there.

Karratha is not all it is cracked up to be if you don't have high wage fly in fly out company accoms etc.

Look at all the Shire of Robourne (Karratha Offices) vacancies advertised in every Satdays west! They offer salaries packages around 100K including state govt housing - and can't get or keep staff!

Thats just my and my familys opinion tho - we still have some close friends who live there, and have for years and love it.

It depends a LOT on what you expect and want outta the place.

AnswerID: 351956

Follow Up By: j9 - Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 08:56

Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 08:56
Hey Flywest, thank you so much for all the info, very helpful and has given me alot to think about!!! As you say, gotta think carefully about what you want and or what you are willing to put up with ;) I knew the living expenses were high but had not even thought about what the hell to do when the air con breaks wow!! Once again thanks and if you have any further advice or hints, give me a shout.
FollowupID: 620154

Follow Up By: Flywest - Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 15:46

Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 15:46
Your Welcome,

Mate a mine used to manage 3 hospitals up there (Wickham Karratha and Roebourne) from memory, and had REAl problems retaining nursing staff.

1. There was a LOT of constant pressure on them from the all male population, which they soon tired of.

2. The provided state govt housing is VERY old and poor condition - ceiling fans instead of air conditioners etc.

3. The wages are same as Perth plus the small tax break above the 26th parallel. Theres a REAL dichotomy between the stage govt service provision staff condirtions of living and the mine people in terms of wages and accoms.

4. The dichotomy, creates social problems (Class differentiation) might be a Hospital manager in a sun standard house and low wage compared to your neighbour in a new mining co house, next door with all the air con etc etc
Add to that the manual labourer at the mine is on 2 or 3 times the salary.

5. The differentiation - means that theres a class distinction between the haves and have nots...the miners all have a pool, boat, 4wd, jetskis, motor bikes - i.e. all the toys - because their wage affords it - and their hiouse has al the new furniture etc etc
The neighbouring state govt service employee has huge responsibility, crappy wage and a derelect house and no toys coz the wage wont allow it.

6. Try explaing to the kids - why your the big head honcho of a whole medical system in the Pilbara - always on call and long hours - no time for your kids or wife etc and you live like paupers, and the neghbours kids who's dad isa dump truck driver for the mine - have ALL the mod cons and toys etc - it's a cause of REAL friction with the kids at school, & in sporting clubs etc.

7. Public servants in the Pilbara are a lower socio economic demograph due to the high wages and conditions on offer to the mine workers, whch makes for division in the comunities...
Its not long before your missus under all the constant attention / pressure from the mining co dudes iseventually bangin the dump truck driver next door, because he can offer her and your kids, a better quality of life than you can, on a low paid govt wage and a hugely responsible job that affords your wife and kids hardly any of your time.

8. The govt positions in the Pilbara are like a huge revolving door they are ALWAYS advertised in the papers because no one will stay - LOTS of the govt husing available is in places like Roebourne which has a predominantly first nations population....
Unless you've visited Roebourne you wouldn't understand what I mean - but for example - the Hotel is closed in town permanently - too many riots every day for local Police to be able to contend with.

Karratha's a nice place to visit and fish - but you'd wanna think twice about living there long term, it is VERY hard on own two teenage boys reckoned the seagulls were looking sweet after 9 months up there, without seeing many if any young gals their own age the whole time we were there.
I can tel you they are MUCH happeir down here in Perth with their jobs and girlfriends, nightlife etc

FollowupID: 620204

Reply By: Member - Rotord - Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 08:33

Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 08:33
Hello j9

Flywest described Karratha well and the same applies to Port Hedland and the inland mining towns . If you are still keen to come , then fly in fly out may be an option . Once employed you may be able then to upgrade to a permanent position with a house . The weekend Perth papers have lists of positions available offered through employment agencies . Special training is sometimes offered or can be worthwhile to organize yourself .

Being hasselled is mainly in the pubs ; in large company single persons camps there are strict controls on abusive behaviour . The locals you meet in the sport and recreation clubs go out of their way to welcome newcomers and the social life can be excellent .

Being employed by a large company can be quite lucrative and eventually investing in a Pilbara house can be particularly so .

Finally , give Goodline at Wedgefield [ Port Hedland LIA ] a ring . They have a variety of job types and have permanent single quarters supplied .
AnswerID: 351967

Follow Up By: j9 - Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 08:59

Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 08:59
Thanks so much for the help Rotord! Will give them a call at Wedgefield and do some more research. Am trying to inform myself properly before I dive head first into something and end up hating it. Any advice or hints are always appreciated, thanks!!
FollowupID: 620157

Reply By: Member - V8Diesel (WA) - Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 22:00

Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 22:00
I lived up there building Stage 2 of Dampier Salt years ago.

The summer weather is toxic misery. It's not that nice dry heat like you get inland - that doesn't bother me - it's sticky and thick. Winter is lovely but don't let that trick you. If you can work indoors, it's probably not too bad.

If you want to go mining, check out Kalgoorlie. It's a much better place socially, the weather is far better and there's places to visit and things to do. You can scoot down to Esperance for the weekends and enjoy some the best beaches in the world as well.

Karratha always left me with a sense that eveyone was just 'doing their time' and counting the minutes before they could take their pay and leave for somewhere else. As mentioned previously, the pay doesn't go too far either.
AnswerID: 352080

Reply By: Drew - Karratha - Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 23:21

Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 23:21
Hi j9
I lived in Karratha for 6 yrs and in Wickham for 1 yr before that (i have now lived in the South of WA for 2 years). I worked as a School Teacher (low paid compared to the mining jobs) but got GEHA housing - otherwise I wouldnt have been able to afford the rent... I disagree with a lot of what has been said in the above posts.
Fuel is more expensive (today according to the fuel prices on Exploroz is about 20c/L more than Perth), but if you live in Karratha you can walk or ride most places - if you do need to drive, everything within the own is only a couple of k's way. We spend A LOT more on fuel living down South than we did up there.
Food isnt any more expensive - there is Coles and Woolworths - we never noticed any differences in the price of food / clothes etc.
Class systems are a lot more prominent in cities - in Karratha some housing is better than others - water and mow the lawn, plant some plants, and your place wil look as good as any other house.... In Perth people think different of you if you live in certain suburbs - in Karratha there isnt that distinction.
If you like sports there are plenty to choose from - netball, basketball,softball, volleyball - everything you will find in other places....and a great social life
Yes - it is hot over summer. All houses have airconds. Go to the beach or the pool - it is no worse than a freezing winter down south - I would rather the heat...
If you like the outdoors - it has everything - beautiful Islands, swimming all year round, secluded camping spots, a days drive to Karijini, Exmouth, Broome etc
I would suggest to get a job lined up (with accommodation)before heding there - Try Mangrove Personnel or Skilled....
Hope this provides another point of view
ps - I loved it!!!
AnswerID: 352097

Follow Up By: j9 - Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 23:35

Tuesday, Mar 03, 2009 at 23:35
Thanks for your info Drew!! As with all places some people have negative and positive experiences. The best option might be to go up there and check it out first. I am also not a fan of the cold at all and love being outdoors. What I have learnt from all the helpful info everyone has posted is to get a job with accomodation, I checked out the rental online and as all of you have said: How the hell can you live??!!
Thank you to everyone who has posted info, it has really been very helpful, thank you for taking the time to do so!!
FollowupID: 620286

Reply By: Member - Colin H (NSW) - Friday, Mar 06, 2009 at 19:49

Friday, Mar 06, 2009 at 19:49
I have been there and Karatha is a nice place BUT expensive . It was created for the mining town of Dampier and therefore as the wages are high the prices are high.
We were there in April and were forced to stay for a clutch change .Anzac weekend temps of 50 degrees and stuck there for a week not many people work in Karatha let alone on the long weekend..
Mechanics cost $72.00 per hour(4 years ago) and are not the best that there is around. After they did my clutch change it cost me another $190.00 to fix the electrics up in Broome when they squashed the harness putting the thing back together.
Karatha is a pretty place if you like iron ore dust and high temps. Do not forget it is for the mining community.
Cheers guys
Skin and Bones
AnswerID: 352616

Reply By: mustang.sal - Saturday, Mar 07, 2009 at 13:27

Saturday, Mar 07, 2009 at 13:27
If you have a young family as I do, getting a day care spot so you can work is like winning the lotto,then you have to win the lotto to pay for it. a caravan site is up to 300 per week, midgies will get you just before winter (which is nice by the way). You have to book a caravan site 12 months in advanced,(INDEFINATELY) be prepared to have nowhere to live during the winter months. There is no butcher, Doctors all private practice and you pay a hefty fee. Fishing excellent but need a boat. after working in oz there are plenty more cheaper and issolated towns than Karratha.
AnswerID: 352718

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