Farmers welcome $400m Myalup-Wellington Water for Food project

Tony BarrassThe West Australian
Henty dairy farmer Kevin Depiazzi says the district has always suffered from water quality issues.
Camera IconHenty dairy farmer Kevin Depiazzi says the district has always suffered from water quality issues. Credit: Justin Benson-Cooper

It is a complex, $400 million project to save one of WA’s most promising farming districts, but it may well become known as Dexter’s last deal.

After years of WA Nationals’ lobbying, the Myalup-Wellington Water for Food project is up and running after securing $190 million in Federal funding.

If it all comes together, the project will save our second-biggest dam, open up thousands of hectares around Brunswick, Harvey and Waroona to agriculture, and increase cropping and livestock production in a region strangled by salinity.

It works like this: above the Wellington Dam, water from the salty Collie River east branch would be piped to a mine void, reducing the salinity by almost a half over the next three years.

Water will then flow to a $200 million desalination plant in Collie and on to Harris Dam.

There the drinking water, which will be sold to WaterCorp, will be piped to Great Southern Wheatbelt towns.

Below the dam, a new weir would be built at Burekup and pipelines would gravity-feed water to the surrounding irrigation and agricultural districts of Collie River and Myalup.

With hundreds of jobs in the wings and the chance to transform the area into a genuine food bowl, there’s excitement among locals such as Kevin Depiazzi, a third-generation dairy farmer from Henty.

“We’ve always been restricted by the quality of the water we get here and it’s been getting progressively worse, but that will change as the project gets under way,” he said.

Harvey Water general manager Bradd Hamersley, who represents the 730 agri-business members who have thrown $30 million of their own money into the project, said it would bring a variety of opportunities.

“With increasing saline irrigation water from Wellington Dam causing germination problems, our members were facing an almost certain end to their farming enterprises, but by securing this funding partnership, the future is looking positive,” he said.

But the real hero may well be Dexter Davies — WA Nationals powerbroker and father of leader Mia — who died last month of cancer.

It was at his funeral that Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack — ear-bashed by party heavies Tony Crook, Terry Redman, James Hayward, Colin Holt and Nick Fardell — decided to tick off on the funding.

Ms Davies, who launched the project when she was water minister in the Barnett government, also played a part in lobbying Canberra.

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