Business Services

Big plans for Australia’s biggest shire

Author: Careers at Council

Read time: 5 min read

Introducing Steve Harding, CEO at the Shire of East Pilbara.

At 372,571 square kilometres, the Shire of East Pilbara is the largest local government area in Australia. The shire’s recently appointed CEO, Steve Harding has a clear direction for the region that is ambitious and inspiring. We recently talked to Steve about his vision and the career journey that led him to Western Australia.


After completing his engineering degree at Monash University, Steve began his career as a Structural Engineer in private practice, designing the buildings that today form Melbourne’s skyline. When the commercial property market crashed, the need for the sky scrapers dried-up and Steve moved into his first local government role as a deputy engineer for Lockhart Shire Council in NSW.

From there, Steve held several roles across different local government areas including Manager of Water and Waste Water at Richmond Valley Council, NSW and Technical Director at Glenelg Shire Council in Portland, Victoria.

He then moved back into private enterprise – running his own business managing bio-gas projects across Australia and Asia. Impressively, Steve and his 70-strong team were responsible for mitigating 880 tonnes of carbon from the projects they worked on.


Steve eventually returned to local government, and his first role in Western Australia as Director of Technical Services for the Shire of Broome. Here, he was involved in the development of Chinatown and the planning for the city’s jetty which is currently in construction.

A move to the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale as Director of Infrastructure Services was his last role before accepting the position of CEO for the Shire of East Pilbara in 2021.

Steve comments, “I’ve experienced a lot across both private and public sector – yes, I have an engineering background, but I have also managed teams, I have an MBA and legal qualifications. It’s about bringing it all together in this role – that’s what I’m really enjoying about being CEO.”

He’s also enjoying being back in the public sector and what that represents. Steve explains, “I came back to local government because you can make a real difference here. The principles are the same in private enterprise – but the outcomes are so different. You have to watch the money all the time in private enterprise to keep the lights on! Here the outcomes are all about the community. It’s so much more fulfilling.”


Steve is building a team around him that is focused on achieving outstanding outcomes for the Shire of East Pilbara. There’s a lot to achieve but according to Steve that’s what makes it so rewarding. He comments, “Join us here and you’ll get to put your brand on it. There’s so much we need to do; we’re rebuilding and it’s so exciting.”

To be successful Steve believes that attitude is equally, if not more so, important than aptitude. He explains, “Don’t just come here for the money, come for what you’re going to achieve. To succeed here you need to have a community outlook, be someone who wants to make a real difference to the community we love. It’s about having a high care factor – if you don’t, you won’t fit in.”

Steve is building a culture where the business is run as a family, where people genuinely care for each other and celebrate each other’s victories.

Customer service is also a key focus. Steve comments, “Essentially, Council is a monopoly, people have to deal with us. So, when they do, we want it to be a good experience. Rather than ‘no, we can’t do that’, I want to say ‘yes we can’ and then we’ll figure out how we can make it work – it’s all about attitude!”


Steve is all about stretching people. In local government he says, you’ll have the time and resources to find the best answer to a problem – not just any answer. His leadership style is collaborative, it’s about having a clear direction, but also taking on board the ideas of the people around you.

Steve comments, “I involve people in as much as I can, I want them to share the journey with me so that we can achieve great things together.”

He believes that compassion and empathy are important, people don’t set out to make mistakes. He explains, “If there’s a problem I’ll get down into the weeds, but I’ll also get out of them really quickly. People need to feel empowered to do things for themselves.”


33% larger than Victoria, The Shire of East Pilbara is vast – and its future is bright. At present, the mining sector dominates the region’s economic landscape, contributing an estimated $16.017 billion (89%) of total output generated within the Shire.

Steve has a vision that will see the area move beyond its reliance on mining. He’s building a sustainable region where people will want to live and work.

From the $120 million of capital works that will be delivered over the next 3-4 years, to promoting the region as a tourism destination with its abundant wildlife, astounding geology and its awe-inspiring landscape, and making the region a place where people want to live – child care facilities, local business support – the list goes on.

Steve comments, “When I leave, I want to make sure the Shire of Pilbara is a better place. As a group that’s what we’re doing, it’s really exciting.” He adds, “I know I have high expectations of myself in this role, and I have high expectations of my team – it’s my job to help them understand my vision. We have a plan, and the outcomes are going to be enormous.”


Senior Leadership roles in local government offer you the opportunity to use your skills, experience, and vision to ensure Australia’s communities thrive today, and into the future. What will your legacy be?
Be inspired and join the team at the Shire of East Pilbara or look for other senior roles in local government now.

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