Port Pirie is a city and seaport on the east coast of the Spencer Gulf in South Australia, 223 km (139 mi) north of the state capital, Adelaide. The settlement was founded in 1845 and at June 2018 had an estimated urban population of 14,188. Port Pirie is the eighth most populous city in South Australia after Adelaide, Mount Gambier, Gawler, Mount Barker, Whyalla, Murray Bridge, and Port Lincoln.
The city's economy is dominated by one of the world's largest lead smelters, operated by Nyrstar. The smelter is currently undergoing a $650 million upgrade to replace some of the old existing plant and to reduce airborne lead emissions drastically. It also produces refined silver, zinc, copper and gold. Port Pirie is the largest city and the main retail centre of the Mid North region of South Australia.
Prior to European settlement, the location that became Port Pirie was occupied by the indigenous tribe of Nukunu. The location was called 'Tarparrie', which is suspected to mean "Muddy Creek". The first European to see the location was Matthew Flinders in 1802 as he explored the Spencer Gulf by boat. The first land discovery of the location by a European was by the explorer Edward Eyre, who explored regions around Port Augusta. John Horrocks also discovered a pass through the Flinders Ranges to the coast, now named Horrocks Pass.
The town was originally called Samuel's Creek after the discovery of Muddy Creek by Samuel Germein. In 1846, Port Pirie Creek was named by Governor Robe after the John Pirie, the first vessel to navigate the creek when transporting sheep from Bowman's Run near Crystal Brook. In 1848, Matthew Smith and Emanuel Solomon bought 85 acres (34 ha) and subdivided it as a township to be known as Port Pirie. Little development occurred on site and by the late 1860s there were only three woolsheds on the riverfront.
The locality was surveyed as a government town in December 1871 by Charles Hope Harris. The thoroughfares and streets were named after the family of George Goyder, Surveyor General of South Australia. In 1873 the land of Solomon and Smith was re-surveyed and named Solomontown. On 28 September 1876, with a population of 947, Port Pirie was declared a municipality.
With the discovery of rich ore bearing silver, lead and zinc at Broken Hill in 1883, and the completion of a narrow gauge railway from Port Pirie to close to the Broken Hill field in 1888, the economic activities of the town underwent profound change. In 1889 a lead smelter was built by the British Blocks company to treat the Broken Hill ore. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company initially leased the smelter from British Blocks but began constructing their own smelter from 1892. In 1913 the Russian consul-general Alexander Abaza reported that Port Pirie had a population of more than 500 Russians, mostly Ossetians, who had come to work at the smelter. At that time the town supported a Russian-language school and library.
In 1915 the smelter was taken over by Broken Hill Associated Smelters (BHAS) – a joint venture of companies operating in Broken Hill. Led by the Collins House Group, by 1934 BHAS became the biggest lead smelter in the world. The smelter gradually passed to Pasminco, then Zinifex, and since 2007 has been operated by Nyrstar.
By 1921, the town's population had grown to 9801 living in 2308 occupied dwellings. By this date there were 62 boarding houses to cater for the labour demands at the smelter and on the increasingly busy waterfront. Port Pirie was declared South Australia's first provincial city in 1953, and today it is South Australia's second largest port.
The city is characterised by an attractive main street and some interesting and unusual historic buildings. Heritage-listed sites include:
- 1 Alexander Street: 
- 32 Ellen Street: 
- 64-68 Ellen Street: 
- 69-71 Ellen Street: 
- 73-77 Ellen Street: Port Pirie (Ellen Street) railway station
- 79-81 Ellen Street: Port Pirie Post Office
- 85 Ellen Street: 
- 94 Ellen Street: Sample Rooms, rear of 
- 134 Ellen Street: 
- 32 Florence Street: 
- 50-52 Florence Street: 
- 105 Gertrude Street: 
- Memorial Drive: 
- 5 Norman Street: 
According to the 2006 Census, the population of the Port Pirie census area was 13,206 people. Approximately 51.8% of the population were female, 86.9% are Australian born, over 92.7% of residents are Australian citizens and 2.6% were Aboriginal people.
The most popular industries for employment were Basic Non-Ferrous Metal Manufacturing (9.7%), School Education (6%), Hospitality (only including hotels) (11%), Health (5.4%) and Animal Husbandry (4%), while the unemployment rate is approx. 11%. The median weekly household income is A$608 or more per week, compared with $924 in Adelaide. 27.1% of the population identify themselves as Catholic, while 23.7% identify with no religion at all.
Port Pirie is at an elevation of 4 metres above sea level. It is approximately 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) inland, on the Pirie River, which is a tidal saltwater inlet from Spencer Gulf. It is on the coastal plain between Spencer Gulf (to the west) and the Flinders Ranges to the east.
Port Pirie exists in a region with a semi-arid climate, outside Goyder's Line, surrounded by mallee scrub. Average daily maximum temperatures vary from a mild 16.4 °C in winter to 32.0 °C in summer. Its average annual rainfall is 345.2 millimetres, most of which falls in winter.
According to the Köppen climate classification, Port Pirie has a warm semi-arid climate, noted as BSh.
|Climate data for Port Pirie|
|Record high °C (°F)||48.6
|Average high °C (°F)||32.0
|Average low °C (°F)||17.7
|Record low °C (°F)||4.8
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||18.6
|Source: Bureau of Meteorology|
The first railway in Port Pirie opened in 1875 when the South Australian Railways 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge Port Pirie-Cockburn line opened to Gladstone, ultimately being extended to Broken Hill. The original Ellen Street station was located on the street with the track running down the middle. The station today is occupied by the Port Pirie National Trust Museum.
In 1937, it became a break-of-gauge station when the broad gauge Adelaide-Redhill line was extended to Port Pirie. At the same time the Commonwealth Railways standard gauge Trans-Australian Railway was extended south from Port Augusta to terminate at the new Port Pirie Junction station where it met the broad gauge line, in the suburb of Solomontown.
As far back as 1943, a plan existed to build a new station to remove trains from Ellen Street. As part of the gauge conversion of the Port Pirie to Broken Hill line, Mary Elie Street station was built to replace both Ellen Street and Port Pirie Junction stations.
When opened, the new station was the meeting point for the Commonwealth Railways and South Australian Railways networks with through trains changing locomotives and crews, so the disadvantages were not as notable. However, after both became part of Australian National in July 1975 and trains began to operate in and out with the same locomotives, trains began to operate via Coonamia station on the outskirts of the city.
A freight line continues to operate into Port Pirie, feeding the metals plant with raw materials from Broken Hill, and transporting the processed material to Adelaide. This line is managed by Bowmans Rail.
Port Pirie's marine facilities, managed by Flinders Ports, handle up to 100 ship visits annually, up to Handymax size, for commodities such as mineral concentrates, refined lead and zinc, coal, grain, and general cargo.
Industry and employment
As of 2020, Port Pirie is the locality of the largest lead smelter and refinery in the southern hemisphere; a lead smelter has been there since the 1880s. The owner since 2007, Nyrstar, is the city's main employer., and high blood lead levels in the local population are an ongoing concern. The Stack, which can be seen kilometres away, is 205 metres tall, and is the tallest structure in the state. In 2006 Zinifex formed a joint venture with Umicore to create Nyrstar, which owns the smelter, with the intention that it would eventually be an entity separate from the parent companies.
Flinders Industrial, a new industrial estate, is currently[when?] in its second stage and is planned to be home to the new council depot.[when?] There were plans to build a sulphuric acid plant for the benefit of the Nyrstar Smelter, but this project has been shelved and deemed not feasible.
A $3.3 million cultural precinct funded by the Port Pirie Regional Council and the Federal Government was completed in 2010. A committee is also looking at building a multi-purpose stadium.[needs update] The swimming pool was modernised after receiving a $1 million refit. A major waste recovery facility was opened in 2013, in which all waste and recycled material is sorted under one roof. In 2012 Port Pirie Regional Council completed a $5 million community water recycling project with Nyrstar which allows 350 megalitres of water from the smelter to be reused. Plans are under way to establish a large shopping complex in the city with an additional supermarket and department store. The city's population is continually growing and property prices continue to rise. The Port Pirie Regional Council has a number of large projects that will be launched or completed next financial year.[needs update]
The PPRC completed a major redevelopment of its foreshore area in 2014 including the construction of the Solomontown Beach Plaza, opening up Beach abroad to through traffic, replacing lighting along the beach and improving security. In addition, by the end of 2014, the council aims to replace and duplicate the current Solomontown boat ramp and undertake dredging in the vicinity of the ramp. This investment is aimed at creating a waterfront which will revitalise the area from the Main Road boat ramp up to the area off Ellen street.[needs update]
Tenby10 (Lead levels)
Lead smelters contribute to several environmental problems, especially raised lead levels in the blood of some of the town population. The problem is particularly significant in many children who have grown up in the area. A state government project addressed this.[needs update] Nyrstar plans to progressively reduce lead in blood levels such that ultimately 95% of all children meet the national goal of 10 micrograms per decilitre. This has been known as the tenby10 project. Community lead in blood levels in children are now at less than half the level that they were in the mid 1980s.
The goal we are committed to achieving is for at least 95% of our children aged 0 to 4 to have a blood lead level below ten micrograms per decilitre of blood (the first ten in tenby10) by the end of 2010 (the second ten in tenby10).
Higher concentrations of lead have been found in the organs of bottlenose dolphins stranded near the lead smelter, compared to dolphins stranded elsewhere in South Australia. The health impacts of these metals on dolphins has been examined and some associations between high metal concentrations and kidney toxicity were noted.
Education and culture
Port Pirie is the main centre for the Mid North area. Many towns in the area rely on Port Pirie for shopping and employment. It also has many educational institutions such as John Pirie Secondary School (years 8-12), St Mark's College (reception - year 12), Mid North Christian College (reception - year 12), many preschools and primary schools, and a TAFE campus (adult education).
Port Pirie is home to the National Trust Historic and Folk Museum and Memorial Park. Every September and October the city hosts a country music festival. It has significant Italian and Greek communities. The Keith Michell Theatre, within the Northern Festival Centre, is named after the renowned actor Keith Michell, who grew up in Warnertown, 5 km (3 mi) from Port Pirie.
The town's main newspaper, The Recorder, was first published 21 March 1885 as The Port Pirie Advocate and Areas News. In 1971, a brief experiment, known as the Northern Observer (7 July - 30 August 1971), occurred when The Recorder and The Transcontinental from Port Augusta were published under a combined title in Port Pirie. The Recorder, which is still in print today (Tuesdays and Thursdays), has recently changed to a morning paper, after being delivered at around 3:00 pm. Other Port Pirie newspapers include the free The Flinders News (Wednesdays), and The Advertiser, which covers some Port Pirie news, but to a very small extent.
Another newspaper, the Port Pirie Advertiser (7 April 1898 – 28 June 1924) was also published by Robert Osborne. A further publication was the short-lived Saturday Times (6 December 1913 – 15 August 1914), printed by Roy Harold Butler and closed at the start of the Great War.
Television coverage in the city is provided by the ABC, SBS, Southern Cross (7, 9 and 10) and Austar. Several radio stations cover Port Pirie, including ABC 639AM, ABC 891AM, 1044 5CS, 1242 5AU, triple j, Magic FM and Trax FM (a community station).
State and federal
|Port Pirie West|
|Port Pirie West|
2007 Federal Election
The results shown are from "Port Pirie West", the largest polling booth in Port Pirie, which is at the SA TAFE Campus.
Although the region is generally Liberal-leaning because of its agricultural base, Port Pirie is an industrial centre that is favourable to the Australian Labor Party.
In late 2008 Rob Kerin announced his retirement, which led to a by-election being held in January 2009. Port Pirie mayor Geoff Brock announced his candidacy as an independent, and subsequently took the seat from the Liberals at the 2009 Frome by-election. After the poll for the by-election had closed and first preferences had been counted, (but before other preferences had been distributed), the result was Lib: 39.2%; ALP: 26.1%; Brock 23.6%; Nat: 6.6%; Greens: 3.8%; Other: 0.7%.
State Opposition Leader Martin Hamilton-Smith (Liberal Party) claimed victory, prematurely. Distribution of National Party, Greens and other preferences placed Brock ahead of the ALP candidate. Hence with the assistance of the ALP candidate's preferences, Geoff Brock won the by-election 51.7% to 48.3% for the Liberal candidate.
- Nip Pellew (1893-1981), Australian Test cricketer and North Adelaide player
- Mark Bickley (1969-), Adelaide Crows dual premiership captain
- Mark Jamar (1982-), Melbourne Demons player and all-Australian
- David Tiller (1958-), North Adelaide Roosters captain and premiership player
- Brodie Atkinson (1972-), St. Kilda, Adelaide Crows, North Adelaide premiership player (1991), Sturt premiership player (2002) and Magarey Medal winner (1997)
- Elijah Ware (1983-), Port Adelaide and Central Districts player and premiership player
- Abby Bishop (1989-), Canberra Capitals player
- Lewis Johnston (1991-), Sydney Swans, Adelaide Crows
- Sam Mayes (1994-), North Adelaide, Brisbane Lions (2013-)
- Geoff Brock, State Politician
- Ted Connelly, State Politician
- Andrew Lacey (1887–1946), Federal and State Politician, State Leader of the ALP 1933–1938
- Sir Hugh Cairns (1896–1952), Rhodes Scholar, Neurosurgeon and crash helmet proponent
- Keith Michell (1928-2015), Actor
- John Noble (1948-), Actor and director
- Robert Stigwood (1934-2016), Music entrepreneur and impresario
- Category:People from Port Pirie
- Diocese of Willochra
- Roman Catholic Diocese of Port Pirie
- Sir John Pirie, 1st Baronet, for whom several places and features are named
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