TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop - Myalup-Wellington Project WA
12 October 2018
With: Hon Alannah MacTiernan MP, WA Minister for Regional Development, Agriculture and Food
Subjects: Irrigated agriculture production in the Collie River, Harvey and Waroona districts of south-west WA – The Myalup-Wellington project; Water Infrastructure; Free Trade Agreements
It’s fantastic to be here today for the formal start of the Collie Water project. It has been an important, a really important initiative for the South West, for agriculture and horticulture in this region. We’ve had massive problems of salinity that have been building up over the last 50 years, and now with the help of our friends in the Commonwealth and the private sector, we’ve been able to devise a project that will help alleviate this problem and allow for the expansion of horticulture in this region. We are very pleased that we’ve been able to get a decent sum of money supporting this project from the Commonwealth. We’ve been very exercised by the fact that we have seen billions of dollars going into the Murray Darling to deal with their very evident problems, but we have been very keen to make sure that the water problems that we have here in Western Australia also get a guernsey on the national stage.
So, it's a great project and we hope now that we can talk about other projects like the Southern Forest project that the Deputy PM might hopefully have a look at during his visit here.
When will the projects- when do you expect it to be finished?
This is going to be many years in the making. I would expect us to really start seeing results over the next couple of years, but it's a very extensive project. It involves development of a desalination plant, a diversion from that desalinisation plant. There's a lot of work to be done on vegetation, planting of forest, and we've also got that important park infrastructure work. So, we'll be sequencing that work, but this is going to be something that will be delivered, really, over the next five years.
And when is construction officially going to start?
Some of that timetabling is now what will be worked out once we've got all the financial agreements in place, because this is a big commitment from the private sector as well, that we will be working out how the various elements of the project can be sequenced. There’s certain works that can be done in parallel, so we’ll be looking at how we manage that over the next couple of months. We will be putting in place all the agreements between the various private sector operatives. We've developed our Memorandum of Understanding with Commonwealth and the State and the private sector. Now, the private sector entities have to come together to lock away their legals and their financials, and then we can really chart the way forward. I think we'll start seeing things on the ground certainly in the next two years. We've already got some (indistinct) that are, in broad sense, a part of this project have started outside of Collie.
So just to confirm: so it won’t, it might not start for another couple of years?
I’ll just have to check on that. We don't see that the actual construction of the components will start in the next 12 months, but we would be hoping that in the next two years that we can start those; the injection of the physical infrastructure. For the next six months, we’re going to be very much focused, I think, on getting all of the funding. It’s a $396 million project that has a very considerable component of it which is private sector funding. And now we've got the in-principle agreement between Collie Water, State Government, Federal Government. Then there’s this detailed work of getting that private sector funding together and locked away in secure legal arrangements.
So, how much more private sector funding needs to be sourced?
Well my understanding is that there’s, I think, 190 including (indistinct)? Yes, so there’s around 190 from the federal Government, 37 from ours, and so the remainder of the project is to be funded through the private sector, and we will have a collaboration between Collie Water and Harvey Water in developing and putting together those private sector funds.
And you said you wanted to have a chat to the Deputy Prime Minister about the Southern Forest project; what will you be saying?
Well, I’ve already said that is another project. Obviously, it doesn’t involved desalination, but very much a response to the problem of the dry climate here in the South West of the State, protecting another prime horticulture area. And look, we know that there are lots of demands on Government, but we just always want to use these opportunities to draw attention to the amount of investment in water infrastructure that has gone on in the Murray Darling, and saying: look out, really, in the overall scheme of things, our asks are relatively modest, and if they could see their way forward to clear a spot in the budget for this next project, which I think will bring the equivalent value to our next horticultural area down the line.
Deputy Prime Minister, can I ask you a question on the Southern Forest Irrigation Scheme as well?
Sure. Well, I might make some introductory remarks if that’s okay. Do you want to get going, Alannah?
This is not my first visit to Nola Marino’s electorate, but it’s certainly the most exciting. She has fought so, so hard to get this project up. And to be here with Alannah MacTiernan and Nola Marino to be announcing the $396 million project, which is going to transform the Collie River, the Harvey, the river districts is just fantastic. Nola Marino almost wears the carpet out into my ministerial office in Canberra, fighting hard for the seat of Forrest, fighting hard for the irrigators, fighting hard for the dairy farmers, fighting hard for the small business people. She knows what a transformational project this is. She knows that this isn’t just building her area, not just building Western Australia, but it’s indeed nation-building. She knows that we need to build our future. Nola is a big advocate for agriculture being a farmer herself. She understands just how important it is to boost, to build agriculture.
Of course, we’ve got free trade agreements with South Korea, Japan, and China that we need to fill. Also one with Peru that we’ve signed just this year as the Liberal-Nationals in Federal Parliament. And of course, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison just recently announced another really good trade arrangement with Indonesia, just to the North: countries which are crying out for our food and fibre - food and fibre that can be grown right here, in this wonderful, wonderful area of Western Australia. And of course, it can only happen with the additional water. It can only happen with better water supplies and that’s just what we’re announcing today: $396 million, of which $190 million is a Commonwealth commitment, working in with Collie Water, working in with the State Government here in Western Australia. And it goes to show what you can do when you get both tiers of Government, as well as private investors working for the common good.
So well done to Nola Marino, she’s fought really hard for this and I’m delighted to be with her. Previously, I was here as the Small Business Minister. This dovetails in with that because there are so many small business operators, farmers, who are going to benefit from this investment. So I say thanks to the Western Australian Government, but particular thanks to Nola Marino for her advocacy, for her campaigning, for her support of this project. Of course Collie Water wouldn’t have been made possible without that private investment; wouldn’t have been made possible without their input too. So it’s a great day, and we’re looking forward to seeing the projects start. That should happen in the not too distant future and we’re looking forward to mid-2024 when the project will be completed. And then we can possibly see the 34,600 hectares around this area, of which, 6557 hectares at the moment is the only area that is actually under irrigation. We want to see that just about double. So that area can just about double as under irrigation and that of course, is going to grow more food and fibre to supply those markets that we’ve been able to engage with.
Just on the Southern Forest Irrigation Scheme that Alannah MacTiernan was talking about: How high a priority is that for you?
I’ll be looking forward to talking with stakeholders and hearing what Nola Marino has to say about that particular project. Of course, anything that is going to boost our regions, that is going to be good infrastructure and money well spent, I’m always open to listening to key people at a local level, to see what they have to say about it. But I say again, Nola Marino is a great fighter for this area, and if the project stacks up, we'll certainly look at it.
The Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme has been pretty controversial in Manjimup; is it likely to ever get Federal funding if that controversy remains?
There’s a lot of irrigation projects that are controversial and they're controversial because quite often the Greens don't support them. I'm delighted that I'm actually here standing beside Alannah MacTiernan who supports this particular project. She understands that agriculture is important. She understands how important it is to have additional food and fibre. The Greens don't get that. They don't like dams. The Greens don't like particular water projects, they like to see all the water flow out to the sea. So I'm big on regional development, I'm big on building dams, I’m big on building more infrastructure that’s going to create a better wealth prospect for our farmers, for our small businesses. I'm happy to sit beside anybody and alongside anybody and opposite anybody who wants to talk about building more water infrastructure because water is the key. It is Australia's most valuable resource. Make no mistake. Anything that can enhance flood mitigation, anything that can enhance water storage to build a better future, then I'm happy to listen to anybody who is a proponent of that.
This isn’t controversial amongst The Greens though, it’s amongst farmers in the town.
Well sure, well as I say, I'm happy to sit down tomorrow and whilst I'm here for the West Australian Nationals Conference, to talk to anybody who wants to put the project to me, to pitch it to me and I'll of course, take a lot of soundings from my great friend and Liberal colleague Nola Marino. As I say, she wears the carpet out into my office and if anybody is pro-regional development, it's this lady beside me. And so, look, I'll be taking soundings from her and seeing how the project stacks up.
Colin Bettles, 0447 718 781
Dom Hopkinson, 0409 421 209