Abstract: Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to present the Pilbara as an illustrative case study of some of the tension that arises out of a largely unmediated engagement of regional communities with neo-liberal globalisation and to demonstrate the usefulness of Harvey's general matrix of spatialities as an analytical framework for examining such phenomena. Design/methodology/approach – In deploying Harvey's matrix, attention is focused on one key intersection where tensions between differing perspectives and representations of regional development in the Pilbara are best conceptualised. These tensions are examined using qualitative data collected from 21 semi-structured in-depth interviews and policy documents from state and federal governments. Findings – The analysis indicates that there are various and sometimes conflicting values and perceptions about the effects of occupying one of the “spaces of global capitalism”. This is most evident in that while the extensive natural resources located in the region generate considerable wealth, the Pilbara communities are not necessarily reaping the full benefits of this wealth. Research limitations/implications – This research is limited in that it is a single case study. However, it does illustrate the limiting effects on regional development of narrowly focussed economic approaches fostered by neo-liberal policy perspectives that has applicability in other contexts. Originality/value – In applying Harvey's matrix, the “space” occupied by the Pilbara is analysed in way that opens the various influences, contradictions and pressures to critical examination, providing opportunities for the development of alternative futures.