China inks Ord deal

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
KAI chief executive Jian Zhong Yin embraces MG Corporation chairman Desmond Hill with Premier Colin Barnett looking on after the signing of the Aboriginal development package.
Camera IconKAI chief executive Jian Zhong Yin embraces MG Corporation chairman Desmond Hill with Premier Colin Barnett looking on after the signing of the Aboriginal development package. Credit: The West Australian

A breakthrough deal with traditional owners opens the door for Chinese developers to eventually gain freehold title over land on the Ord River irrigation scheme.

The Miriwung Gajerrong agreed to support Kimberley Agricultural Investments in securing freehold title as part of an Aboriginal development package signed in Kununurra yesterday in front of Premier Colin Barnett.

KAI is developing farms on the Ord under long-term leases issued by the State Government but wants stronger land tenure as part of a potential billion-dollar investment in a sugar industry.

The ADP signed yesterday covers the 6000ha Knox Plains site and is worth about $9 million to the Miriwung Gajerrong. It includes cash, employment and joint venture opportunities.

KAI has cleared most of the 7400ha Goomig site released as part of Ord Stage 2 with about 600ha all but ready for farming. KAI will plant its first crops - chia and shorghum - next year.

The ADP on Knox took two years to finalise after the Government blocked a MG-backed plan to subdivide land and sell about 25 blocks. KAI, owned by Shanghai Zhongfu, must now gain Federal environmental approval before it can start work on Knox.

The lack of freehold title on Goomig and Knox remains a sticking point.

It is understood the Government has decided to offer freehold title based on development clauses when it releases the next big parcel of land at the Ord.

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