Is this WA’s longest serving Councillor?

Published on:
Friday, 20 October, 2023
WALGA updates

One of the longest-serving Councillors in Western Australia, possibly Australia is stepping down from the Shire of East Pilbara, having first been elected in 1977.

Langtree Eric Christopher ‘Lang’ Coppin has been forthright, at times blunt, probably outspoken, but a powerful and committed advocate for agriculture in the world’s biggest (by area) municipality.

As a pilot, prospector and cattleman, lobbying for agriculture and road access in the Shire of East Pilbara will be Lang’s legacy.

“I think why I hung in there for so many years is because I was the only person representing the agricultural side of things and the land because I was in the top part of the Shire area and was pretty strong on the condition of the roads.”

“I wanted to represent the agricultural side; the industry has been overshadowed by mining, but it is a big industry that still employs a lot of people."

His family started at Yarrie Station in the 1880s, and the Coppin family continue the station dynasty. 

His time as a remote station cattleman and pilot shaped his long-term consistent attitude to road access.  Lang planned and oversaw road projects, grabbed funding, graded roads, and fought hard for access.

“The grading of the of station road accesses is so important because they don’t just service stations, they help mines, tourism, all those sorts of things.”

The improvement of the road network in the massive Shire has been one of the big changes Lang has witnessed in his time as a Councillor. 

“There’s always something big happening with roads, we’ve created some big roads. Roads are the backbone and the economy of the area.”

One of his favourite projects was the Marble Bar to Alice Springs Road. 

“I remember I was flying the Cessna across the graders; I would throw out toilet paper from the plane with handwritten notes to the boys letting them know ‘Go left, 300m to the left there’s good gravel.’”

Given the distances between Council, the station, and business meetings Lang would often fly fixed-wing or by helicopter to Shire meetings.

“We used to fly quite regularly to meetings, I’d say about 50% of the time. The plane would get me in Marble Bar, then go to Pardoo and Telfer – there would’ve been about four of us that’d get there to Council by plane.”

When Lang started hearing stories that tourists and travellers were taking their own food to Marble Bar and not staying, he stepped up. 

“We watched people drive in and drive out, there was nothing there, so we bought the roadhouse, the shop, the post office, and the caravan park.  It put a fair old dent in the chequebook.” 

“It meant I spent a lot more time in the town than I planned, but in the end, it was good for the joint.”

When quizzed about what he brought to the East Pilbara Council Lang was emphatic:

“Always the finances, I always kept an eye on budgets, and they had a good track record with me.”

“I am pretty pleased that we never had a commission, never had an inquiry, never went bankrupt and we were progressing all the time.”

At the age of 73, Lang Coppin will not go gently into the night, more than slightly rankled after being impacted by ward changes and electoral reforms.

Is Lang Coppin the longest serving Councillor ever…?

“There’s a fair chance that I could be, but I haven’t been able to prove it.”

“Somewhere I read an article about someone else that had done a long stint, so it would have to be a photo finish.”

And Lang’s advice to the new breed of professional Local Government staff..?

“Get those nice shiny cars out of the Council car park, get some dirt on them.  Go and have a look at what’s going on.”

Read more in the September/October 2023 Edition of Western Councillor

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