DAFWA move backflip

Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

The plan to move the Department of Agriculture and Food’s (DAFWA) headquarters to Murdoch has been axed, as Agriculture Minister Terry Redman admits it’s cheaper to stay put.

The move from its South Perth site has been on the cards for at least six years and this time last year the Countryman was told to expect an announcement regarding the move “within weeks”.

The South Perth site was set to be sold to fund the new facility and money for the move appeared in the forward estimates for last year’s Budget.

A new $30 million export grains innovation centre was also touted for the Murdoch University site.

The centre was set to take over major components of DAFWA’s grains research and be partnered by other research and learning institutions. But in a dramatic about-face last month, the State Cabinet reversed those plans, deciding instead to rebuild on the South Perth site.

Mr Redman said it would save the State about $26 million and denied any souring of the relationship between DAFWA and Murdoch.

“It’s certainly nothing related to Murdoch and while I’m sure Murdoch is disappointed we’re not on that site, we will maintain a strong relationship with them, ” he said.

The department has said the required facilities couldn’t have been built at Murdoch to the required standard within the funding available.

But land will still be sold to fund the redevelopment of South Perth.

Almost half of the 20-hectare South Perth site will be sold, although the minister said there were no buildings in use on the eight or nine hectares set to be sold.

The sale of 13ha of land at Forrestfield, jointly owned with the Department of Environment and Conservation and currently housing office and laboratory space, and 100ha of the 160ha Medina Research Station, which houses pig research, will also fund the redevelopment.

Mr Redman declined to comment on how much money would be generated by the land sales, however, in the Budget papers it states the “asset investment program” will be partly offset by asset sales of $48.4 million.

Provisions will be made to develop Medina as a multi-use research station for a range of livestock, cropping and horticultural systems.

Work on the $235 million redevelopment plan, which includes money for the export grains innovation centre, will begin immediately with a completion date of 2015–16.

Some of the newer out buildings will be kept and incorporated into the design and the demolition of decommissioned buildings is expected to start shortly.

The sale of other research station land — or so called ‘lazy assets’— is still on the cards to help fund the New Genes for New Environments facilities at Katanning and Merredin as well as the upgrade of department management information systems.

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