Shire of Ashburton

About the area

Key Statistics


The Shire of Ashburton is located in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, about 1,400 kilometres north of Perth. The Shire of Ashburton is bounded by the Shire of Roebourne and the Town of Port Hedland in the north, the Shire of East Pilbara in the east, the Shire of Meekatharra, the Shire of Upper Gascoyne and the Shire of Carnarvon in the south, and the Shire of Exmouth and the Indian Ocean in the west.

Included Areas

The Shire of Ashburton includes the townships and localities of Cane, Chichester, Fortescue, Hamersley Range, Innawanga, Juna Downs, Karijini, Millstream, Mount Sheila, Mulga Downs, Nanutarra, Onslow, Pannawonica, Paraburdoo, Peedamulla, Rocklea, Talandji, Tom Price, Wittenoom and Yannarie.

Land Use

The Shire of Ashburton is predominantly rural, with townships at Onslow, Pannawonica, Paraburdoo and Tom Price, and a number of small remote Aboriginal communities. The Shire encompasses a total land area of over 105,000 square kilometres. Iron ore mining, and oil and gas production are the main industries. Rural land is characterized by open cut mines, large pastoral leases and cattle stations. Salt processing, fishing and tourism are also important industries.

Name Origin

Ashburton is named after the Ashburton River, which was named after William Bingham Baring, 2nd Baron Ashburton, and President of the Royal Geographical Society when the river was named in 1861.

Indigenous Meaning

The original inhabitants of the Ashburton area were the Banyjima, Innawonga and Kurrama Aboriginal people.


European settlement dates from the 1860s, with land used mainly for pastoral purposes. The township of Onslow was established as a coastal port in 1885. Significant development did not occur until the late 1960s when iron ore deposits were discovered and offshore gas and oil production commenced. The inland townships of Pannawonica, Paraburdoo and Tom Price were established between 1966 and 1970 as company towns for the nearly iron ore mines. The enumerated population of the Shire declined during the late 1990s, falling from about 8,500 in 1991 to under 7,000 in 2001. The population then increased substantially, particularly from 2006, rising to nearly 15,000 in 2011. Growth is expected to continue as natural gas and iron ore mining expands.

Major Features

Major features of the Shire include Karijini National Park, Millstream Chichester National Park, Cane River Conservation Park, various Nature Reserves, the Ashburton River, the Indian Ocean, Barrow Island, Mackerel Islands, Goods Shed Museum and Pilbara Institute (Tom Price Campus).


The Shire of Ashburton is served by the Great Northern Highway and the North West Coast Highway.

Last Note

Note: The main employing industries in the Shire of Ashburton are mining (including oil and gas extraction) and construction. A distinctive feature of the workforce in these industries is the existence of a "fly in fly out" (FIFO) component. These workers only live in the Shire on a temporary basis and hence are not counted in official population statistics. The accommodation of FIFO workers is varied, with some being housed at the site of the mining operations, and others being housed in townships.

Shire of Ashburton

economic profile