State Government opens tenders for $320 million relocation of DPIRD headquarters from Kensington to Murdoch

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Cally DupeCountryman
WA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis.
Camera IconWA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis. Credit: Stuart McGuckin

A plan to move the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s agricultural headquarters from Kensington to Murdoch is a step closer, with the WA Government opening tenders for the $320 million development.

WA Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis this month revealed expressions of interest were open to build a “new world-class biosecurity and research facility”, with the construction expected to end decades of debate about where DPIRD should be based.

It comes after the State Government in December revealed the new facility would be built at Murdoch University’s Perth campus, in Murdoch, by 2027, replacing what WA Premier Mark McGowan said were “decrepit” buildings at the Kensington site.

The State Government is now on the hunt for a managing contractor to run the project, which Ms Jarvis said backed efforts to “reinvigorate agricultural research and development” in WA and deliver “strong biosecurity to respond to pest and disease threats”.

She said the contractor would work with the State Government to design and construct the new facility.

“The new biosecurity and research facility for DPIRD is a significant investment by the McGowan Government in agricultural research and biosecurity in this State,” she said.

“It is exciting to see this landmark project move to its next stage.”

The new centre will be contained within the university’s agricultural precinct on the south-eastern corner of the university campus, which also includes Murdoch’s part of a $7.45m grains research precinct opened between it and Curtin University two years ago.

It will include specialist laboratories and technical work spaces to support biosecurity, market access and primary industries research and development, glasshouses, shade houses, new buildings, and on-site field plots for research.

The site will also include an incident and emergency management operational centre.

As many as 350 staff are expected to be based at the new hub, which will also seek to incorporate commercial enterprises the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre and InterGrain.

The successful managing contractor will partner with the State Government to design and construct the new research and development precinct.

WA Finance Minister Sue Ellery labelled it a “once-in-a-generation” investment to grow the industry for “future generations”.

“The managing contractor EOI process is an important step towards the new world-class metropolitan facility becoming a reality,” she said.

“This process provides the State Government with value for money and minimises risk of the project’s delivery.

“These are two crucial factors in delivering such a major project for WA.”

DPIRD secured premises to house 500 of its public servants in East Perth about two years ago, with nearly all moving last year.

The move left about 200 scientific and specialised technical officers in Kensington, working in 60-year-old facilities facing safety and maintenance issues.

The move to relocate DPIRD Will go down in history as one of former WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan’s final legacies before retiring, with efforts by at least eight ministers over 30 years to find suitable premises for the agriculture agency failing.

However, the decision flies in the face of Ms MacTiernan’s April 2020 comments that per “personal preference” would be to have more of DPIRD’s capability moved to its Northam site, 95km east of Perth.

EOIs closed on May 19, with a successful contractor expected to be announced within the next three months.

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