The Nationals WA Leader Mia Davies says the opportunity to harness the enormous water resource of Wellington Dam for economic growth in the South West will evaporate if the Minister for Regional Development pulls funding for the Collie Water program.
Ms Davies said solving Wellington Dam’s salinity was critical to boosting the region’s agricultural and horticultural industries, creating jobs and attracting investment.
“The industry-led Collie Water project has the potential to reduce the salinity in the Collie River and Wellington Dam, create new jobs, attract investment to the region and provide a long-term supply of drinking water to Collie and other regional towns,” Ms Davies said.
“The Labor Government has been asleep at the wheel for the past three years and now $140 million of Federal Government funds and millions of private sector dollars are at risk.
“At present, around 6500 hectares of the available 34,600 hectares of the Collie River, Harvey and Waroona districts are irrigated because of the water salinity and issues with infrastructure.
“Minister MacTiernan has had more than three years to make this happen and yet now wants to pocket the money set aside in the budget, which would result in the scheme’s collapse altogether.”
Ms Davies was the Minister for Water in 2016 when the program was established as part of the Royalties for Regions $40 million Water for Food initiative.
“Water for Food was a program that underpinned 11 irrigated agricultural projects across the State, from the Kimberley to South West,” Ms Davies said.
“It aimed to diversify our State’s economy by creating and expanding opportunities for the development of irrigated agriculture across WA.
“The Wellington Dam project went through a rigorous process to arrive at the Collie Water solution and now the Minister seems happy to let the project fall away.
“The project was expected to create more than 800 jobs for the region and inject $607 million into the economy, and this included a solution for the shortfall of timber being faced by the softwood plantation industry.”
Ms Davies said the Minister had failed to see the bigger picture and let the communities of the South West region down by leaving the project to languish while pursuing her own personal pet projects like the failed wave energy project in Albany.
“Our State is seeking to rebound from the impacts of COVID-19 and establishing new agriculture and horticulture opportunities – and crucial jobs – in the South West would be an important uplift for the economy,” she said.
“Collie and its surrounds, in particular, are looking to transition to new industries with the demand for nearby coal to fuel near-obsolete power stations on the decline over the next decade.
“It would be a waste for the State Government to walk away from the Collie Irrigation project now and the Minister needs to do more to turn this plan into reality.”
Collie Water project background
- The most saline water flowing into Wellington Dam would be extracted from the Collie River East Branch to a mine void, with that extracted water then treated in a new treatment plant located near Collie.
- The treated water would be piped to Harris Dam to provide a long-term solution to declining drinking water supplies for Collie and Great Southern towns.
- Extraction of salty water from the upper catchment of the Collie River, east of Collie, would improve the water quality of the river and, in turn, improve water quality of Wellington Dam within a few years.
- Below the dam it is proposed that a new weir be built to enable water delivery to be powered by gravity and old open irrigation channels will be replaced with a new pressurised pipe network (in partnership with Harvey Water) to reduce water losses and improve supply to irrigators.
- The project will deliver higher quality water to the Collie River Irrigation District and provide additional water to the Myalup Irrigated Agricultural Precinct.
It is proposed that reafforestation in the Collie River South branch would assist in the prevention of further salt build-up from that area.
Picture: The Water Minister Mia Davies near Wellington Dam shortly after announcing the Water for Food project in January 2017.