Spotlight on the South West

I’m very pleased to talk about a very important economic development initiative in my electorate, the Myalup-Wellington project. This is a significant economic development project. It is an industry-led initiative and it will do a number of things in the irrigation space. It is about substantially increasing production capacity. It will create jobs. It will provide economic uplift in what is the underdeveloped Collie River Irrigation District and the Myalup Irrigated Agricultural Precinct.

The project is a major opportunity to help diversify Western Australia’s regional economy through irrigated agriculture. Anyone who understands irrigation understands the capabilities of irrigated agriculture. Currently, just 6,557 hectares of the available 34,600 hectares of the Collie River, Harvey and Waroona districts are actually irrigated. The Myalup-Wellington project is an industry-led initiative. It will see saline water that’s currently flowing into the Wellington Dam diverted from the Collie River east branch to a mine void, with that water then treated in a new desalination plant. A new, smaller Burekup weir will be built upstream to enable water delivery to be powered by gravity—what a great way to go; environmentally sustainable because it is powered by gravity. The irrigation channels will be replaced with a new, pressurised pipe network. So it is a simple concept. It’s about desalination. It’s about piping. It’s about a delivery network. It will boost horticultural, agricultural and forestry opportunities—what a great combination! It will create jobs and an economic uplift. It will attract even further investment in the region and it will diversify the south-west regional economy.

The old Wellington Dam was built back in 1933 with Commonwealth funding. The salinity in that amazing dam has risen significantly. The Collie River east branch contributes up to 14 per cent of the annual flow and up to 55 per cent of the annual salt load into the Wellington Dam. When you put that in other terms, this means that each year this east branch is delivering between 60,000 and 110,000 tonnes of salt into the Wellington Dam. That’s what part of this project is about—the increase in the salinity over the years and how we manage that. There are districts that are choosing, because of this salinity below the Wellington Dam, not to actually irrigate their properties or irrigate as much of them. The productivity isn’t there in the same way. That is because of that possibility and risk of soil degradation. So it’s important that we deal with the salinity issue as well as the piping process for the delivery of the water ahead.

Existing open channels created in 1960 will be replaced with a closed pipe network. This will save at least 15 gigalitres of water a year currently lost through seepage, leakage or evaporation. The pipe network will replace the open channel system and allow expansion of the amount of land that’s currently under irrigation. This will see a piped system from the Collie River Irrigation District to the Myalup Irrigated Agricultural Precinct which will re-inject water from the Wellington Dam into aquifers in the Myalup area to address the issues around volume and salinity concerns in that area.

There’s also an idea to re-inject stormwater collected in the Harvey diversion drain. That’s also part of the proposal. This is a very sound proposal. It will bring incredible opportunities to the south-west. Around 10 gigalitres a year of potable water from the desal plant will be sold into Water Corp’s Great Southern Towns Water Supply Scheme and stored in the Harris dam. There will be ongoing opportunities. It is a fantastic irrigation system, a series of dams in the hills, with water delivered in a gravity-fed pipe-and-channel system. It’s simple, it’s effective and it delivers. There have been many innovative solutions as part of the sustainable techniques in this multi-awarded delivery system.

I also want to talk about the Bunbury outer ring road. A major development is needed to finish the whole of the Bunbury outer ring road. At the moment, it’s like a stranded T-junction. The federal government recently committed $10 million to complete the planning and the project development of the unbuilt sections—the northern and southern sections. This is currently underway. There are new developments in the area proposed. The planning and project development for the bypass will help to reduce congestion, improve safety and—this is the key issue—provide an efficient freight route. It is a major economic driver in the south-west as well.

Of course, we need to deliver on issues around the Forrest Highway, Robertson Drive and Bussell Highway, which are experiencing congestion and safety challenges, mainly with access to the Bunbury Port for road freight. It’s currently inefficient, with trucks having to negotiate over and over again several low-speed roundabouts. They compete constantly with local commuter traffic. We need really to reduce the congestion on the existing roads, reduce that dangerous mix of heavy freight and local traffic, and encourage sustainable, economic growth in residential and industrial development so they can get on with what they do around Bunbury and support planning. This is part of the proposal for pedestrian, cycling, public transport and passenger rail and freight solutions and that safe and reliable freight route to the port of Bunbury. We need to seriously improve the efficiencies in the supply chain.

We have a growing population in the south-west. We have the highest population in the state outside of Perth, and we need to make sure that we keep developing in this region. Those freight accesses are really critical. There are around 300 truck movements a day into the port. That tells you about the mix between local and freight traffic. The port traffic needs to get on with what it does, and local people need a safe way of getting to and from where they’re going.

The port is of such huge, often underestimated, economic importance to Bunbury, the whole of the south-west and the state of Western Australia. It’s existed since the 1800s, and we are now seeing the amazing—I think it’s amazing—export of alumina. It is the biggest alumina export port in Australia—in Bunbury, in my electorate. I’m very proud of that. I’m proud of the people who produce it, deliver it and ship it out of the port of Bunbury. There are also woodchips, mineral sands, spodumene, silica sands, grain and bauxite, a new export, out of Bunbury, and I’m hoping we’ll see lithium as well.

There are over 10 million tonnes of alumina going out of Bunbury. Every time I see a shipload going out, I think how great it is for our regional economy and the jobs that we are so focused on as a government. Of course, added to that, there are all of the services around the port: the transport services, the maritime services. When the tugs go out, you see how well those men do their job, and the precision of what they do with the vessels that come in is extraordinary to watch.

Of course, part of this is some of the volunteer groups that operate in and around the port. I want to mention the Bunbury Sea Rescue group. They do a fantastic job. They have 35 volunteers and do so many callouts on a regular basis. They are absolutely vital to ensuring the local marine environment is safe. All those people who choose to go out and enjoy themselves need the Bunbury Sea Rescue group of volunteers. The group are very, very proud—and they should be—of their 11-metre Elite Marine aluminium cat. It has twin—which is the bit I like—740 horsepower Volvo Penta diesel engines and, when that vessel starts up, she’s got all the power she needs to do the job that sea rescue need her to do.

All of these volunteers dedicate an enormous amount of time and effort to their sea rescue efforts. They work very closely with the Western Australia Police in search-and-rescue operations. They are totally volunteer. We often see these people, but we don’t think about the amount of time that goes into their training and their efforts. They also educate people on safe boating and survival at sea. They train volunteers as skippers, crews and radio operators. I want to thank all of those at the Bunbury Sea Rescue group for what they do. It’s an incredible commitment you make to the safety not only of people who live in our community but also of those who visit. I saw recently where some of the skippers, particularly Michael Cooper and Brett Ladhams, had been doing some work. Michael received an award recently for the amount of time he’s spent as a volunteer and, each time one of these members receive a long service recognition, I cannot believe how much time they’ve spent volunteering.

The Busselton Volunteer Marine Rescue Group also does a fantastic job. They run out of a state-of-the-art control room, housed in the Busselton Volunteer Marine Rescue Group’s headquarters. It is very well located. It has the latest radar, marine radios and weather station and it is also equipped with an AIS—an automatic identifying system tracking device. There is a fabulous group of volunteers. They don’t even expect to be thanked for what they do; they’re just there. They’re absolutely dedicated to safety at sea. It’s a simple ambition for these people, but what a wonderful thing to deliver. Their core function is rescuing people. That’s what they do: they rescue people; they save lives. And they also help with yachting regattas, outrigger races, the Busselton Jetty swim, the IRONMAN of Western Australia and whale rescues. They are a great group of people. Busselton has 85 volunteers. Of course, there are very active members and others who are not so active. They are such a welcoming group of people that so many others want to be part of this organisation. That’s because of the sense of family and the purpose they have in rescuing people and providing what is an invaluable service. They answer approximately 300 callouts a year. These are all volunteers.

I spoke a couple of days ago about our surf lifesavers and the extraordinary service and the thousands and thousands of hours of their own that they give to make sure they are trained and ready to provide these extraordinary emergency services. For all of those who are involved in emergency services, but particularly the Bunbury Sea Rescue Group and the Busselton Volunteer Marine Rescue Group, I want to say a special thankyou to each one of them. You give up your time, and it costs you money to be a volunteer. What you’re doing is rescuing good people, but you’re saving lives, and it’s one of the most important contributions that you can make—whether it is St John Ambulance, with its extraordinary number of volunteers, or whether it is our volunteer Fire and Rescue people. Our volunteers were amazing with the fire at Augusta. They were on the job straightaway and they saved so many homes and so many people. That fire could have been well out of control but for the work of our volunteers. As always, I’m very supportive of the volunteers who do an extraordinary job right around Australia, but particularly in my electorate. Thank you.