For the past 60 years, successive Western Australian governments have used a unique policy instrument-state agreements-as a regulatory tool for the development of natural resources and infrastructure in the regions. State agreements are essentially contracts between the government and private-sector companies that are given the status of law through ratification by parliament. From a state theoretical perspective, the evolution of state agreements spans a period that commenced during the Fordist-Keynesian configuration of capitalist development and has continued through the increasing neoliberalisation of the global capitalist system. In many respects, the continued use of state agreements in the regional development of Western Australia is inconsistent with the principles of neoliberalism. This paper integrates an empirical study of regional development in Western Australia with theoretical perspectives in economic geography of the 'state', 'governance' and 'development'. More specifically, the paper reflects on the role of state agreements in the development of the Pilbara region. © 2013 Geographical Society of New South Wales Inc.