The future is looking positive for farmers in the Collie and Harvey regions after the Federal Government announced funding for the Myalup-Wellington Water for Food Project last week.
On Friday, the Federal Government announced it would contribute $140 million to the project, along with a concessional loan of up to $50 million.
The project had previously received a commitment of $37 million from the State Government’s Royalties for Regions program, which was conditional on receiving federal funding.
Harvey Water and Collie Water have contributed $175 million and Harvey Water members a further $30 million for the project which is expected to cost approximately $400 million.
The project will see highly saline water extracted from the Collie River East Branch and treated before being returned upstream.
Collie Water chairman Peter Fogarty said the ‘above the dam’ component of the project will be started as soon as possible, including the construction of a 20 gigalitre treatment plant in Collie and piping to extract the water.
It is expected that 10 gigalitres of the treated water will be piped to Harris Dam in order to be used in the supply of drinking water for Collie and the Great Southern Towns network.
The remaining water will be put back into the dam in order to provide irrigation water to 2700 hectares in the Collie River Irrigation District and 1500 hectares in the Myalup Irrigated Agriculture Precinct.
Mr Fogarty said all the groups involved were excited to finally begin work on the project, now that funding had been secured.
“The Prime Minister’s confirmation of Federal funding is a key milestone for the project,” he said.
“We have been working on the region’s salinity issues for many years and now look forward to getting the project under way.”
Harvey Water general manager Bradd Hamersley said the project would provide better quality water to local farmers.
“With increasingly saline irrigation water from Wellington Dam causing productivity loss, germination problems and the virtual elimination of horticultural crops, our members were facing an almost certain end to their existing farming enterprises,” he said.
“By securing this government funding partnership, the future is now looking positive.
“We look forward to bringing prosperity to the 730 agri-businesses Harvey Water represents as well as the delivering wider socio-economic benefits to the community.
“The project will provide significant benefits to the South West, enhancing its role as a leading agricultural centre.”
The project will also include a ‘below the dam’ component which will involve the construction of a new smaller Burekup Weir, which will enable water delivery to be powered by gravity.
The funding announcement comes after the project was included on Infrastructure Australia’s priority project list in March.
Nationals MPs also visited Canberra in January to meet with Federal ministers about securing funding for the project.
Nationals WA leader Mia Davies said the desire to expand irrigated agriculture in WA and double production by 2050 through reducing salinity was a big focus for the party.
“Wellington Dam is Western Australia’s second largest reservoir with a capacity of 185 gigalitres, and has long been plagued by rising salinity,” Ms Davies said.
“Currently, just 6557 hectares of the available 34,600 hectares of the Collie River, Harvey and Waroona districts are irrigated due to impediments to growth and limitations in infrastructure and the salinity of the water.
“This can be a truly transformational project for the South West.”
South West MLC Colin Holt labelled the project as a ‘game changer’.
“I am absolutely delighted that the Federal Government has finally come to WA and committed funding to a regional project,” he said.
“The Myalup-Wellington project has been many years in the making, driven mainly by Harvey Water who kept the project alive through tough times.
“The project is a game changer for the South West and will provide jobs and economic growth for many years to come.
“Our farmers put forward $30 million of their own money to prove how serious they were about this project.”
It is expected that the project will deliver around 800 jobs for the region, spread across construction and agriculture, while also boosting Western Australia’s gross state product by $557 million per year.
Federal member for O’Connor Rick Wilson said the project would be important for the Collie community.
“My aim going forward will be to ensure the benefits of this project flow into the Collie community, including ongoing employment opportunities,” he said.
Mr Wilson said the project had extra importance considering Collie’s recent focus on diversifying its economy.
“The project is a major opportunity to help diversify Collie’s economy through intensive agriculture production, which is one possible solution identified in the Re-imagining Collie report to diversify the local economy as it prepares for a future without coal,” he said.