Katanning bid for food precinct

Kate MatthewsCountryman
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The Shire of Katanning has pitched itself to State Cabinet as an alternative or additional location for the South West food processing precinct site at Burekup.

The informal proposal was made during a community cabinet meeting last month in Katanning.

The shire said it was ideally placed given it had been named a super town, was in the process of building the State's largest sheep saleyards and already had an abattoir.

As a super town, much of the background work needed to plan a food precinct will already have to be done.

Along with eight other super towns, Katanning has to revisit its planning strategies by February to share in $85.5 million the State Government has set aside.

Katanning shire president Richard Kowald said it was common sense for Katanning, not Burekup, to have a food precinct.

"We have the beginnings of a meat precinct already in town and are in the process of encouraging WAMMCO to add a beef chain to their operations," Mr Kowald said.

"We haven't had a minister yet say it's a bad idea, but of course we have to keep it in front of their minds so they consider it in a positive light and properly in conjunction with the other plans that have already been mooted."

The shire said a 400-hectare site adjacent to WAMMCO on the outskirts of town could be developed.

Initial figures of $40 million have been suggested with $20m going to help WAMMCO develop its beef chain and the rest to the food precinct.

Burekup has been estimated to require government investment of $200 million on a 657ha mineral sands mine site 2.5km south-east of town.

In the past, WAMMCO has had a beef and pig plant in Katanning and a decade ago investigated the re-introducing of a beef operation.

WAMMCO chief executive Scott Weir said that at the time, it was not perceived as viable.

"But that's not to say we wouldn't look at the opportunity but it's not something that's on our immediate radar," Mr Weir said.

Opposition Agriculture spokesman Mick Murray said the Burekup site would be plagued by problems if it went ahead, especially as there was a subdivision proposal 4km away for 8000 people.

He said Katanning's distance from the majority of producers in the South West could be an issue, but a preliminary study should be done.

"Without spending huge monies, there should be some sort of feasibility study to see whether it's the right and whether the industry wants it there," he said.

Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said he supported precincts being developed where there was a clear market demand and he would like to see agrifood precincts across the State.

"At the end of the day, these decisions are commercial and any interested council must work with the commercial sector to ensure any proposal is economically viable," Mr Redman said.

"The shortage of suitable land for agrifood processing has been identified by the State Government and industry groups as a serious impediment to the development of agriculture in the South West."

"It makes sense to have compatible agrifood industries together on one site, which leads to improved efficiency for producers and helps with planning issues like buffer zones."

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