Shire keen to boost agricultural interests

Kate PollardCountryman

Manjimup will expand its growing agricultural and horticultural industries thanks to a $6.95 million boost through the State Government's Royalties for Regions SuperTowns funding.

The State Government announced last week the division of more than $80 million among nine SuperTowns to ease the pressure on the metropolitan area.

In the next 30 to 40 years, WA's population is expected to double and in regional areas, the population will climb from 600,000 people to 1.14 million.

While most of the funding will go to infrastructure projects such as a new waterfront for Esperance, a visitor centre in Jurien Bay and new town centres in Collie, Katanning and Morawa, the Shire of Manjimup said its key priority was to expand agriculture.

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The shire will spend $1 million to prepare an overarching strategy looking at increasing production, products, business opportunities and improving water use.

The same amount will be spent linking the Manjimup Horticultural Research Institute and the local high school with TAFE and universities to encourage youth into horticulture and agriculture.

In addition, $6.95 million will go towards the creation of a Food Council, which will brand and promote agricultural projects from the Manjimup district.

Manjimup shire president Wade DeCampo said the aim was to lift the profile of horticulture and capitalise on the region's clean and green image to encompass tourism, including the slow food and culinary movements.

"We feel that no one has had a real attempt to lift the profile of horticulture and agriculture for some time," Mr DeCampo said.

"A part of the whole package and the branding is about lifting the profile and showing people that horticulture and food production isn't just a community service. We need to make money going forward and have a strategy on how farmgate viability will overlap with food security and branding."

If successful, the model, which is loosely based on the success of the Gascoyne and Margaret River branding, could be used by other regions.

As Mr DeCampo said, it's one of the only investments made into localised branding of horticulture and food. "We are really chuffed we have been chosen to try and bring that to the forefront," Mr DeCampo said.

With Esperance getting the largest slice of the pie, $13.2 million, Boddington received just over $2 million to develop 120 housing lots to reduce the drive-in, drive-out workforce and develop opportunities for small business.

Boddington shire president John Allert said the allocation seemed a little "tight" but was grateful, saying the shire would use the money to develop the town and attract more residents.

The shire has 1600 residents with 2300 people living in the mining village.

In the next 40 years, the population is predicted to increase to 10,000 including in Williams and Wandering.

Member for Wagin Terry Waldron, who announced Boddington's funding, said it was just the beginning and would have a ripple effect for surrounding towns.

In Morawa, which has the second most unreliable electricity connection in the State, a solar thermal power project is closer to becoming a reality.

Premier Colin Barnett said the projects were the first step in creating a new scale of regional centres in the southern half of the State.

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