DAFWA headquarters uncertainty

Rueben HaleThe West Australian
Much of the current DAFWA complex is old and in need of upgrade.
Camera IconMuch of the current DAFWA complex is old and in need of upgrade. Credit: The West Australian

Further delays to the long awaited construction of a new headquarters for the Department of Agriculture and Food WA may be on the cards, as the WA State Government aims to drive down debt.

Last week, the Government announced the sale of DAFWA sites in Forrestfield and Medina along with the part sale of DAFWA headquarters in Kensington, which is expected to raise $48.4 million in funds to help ease the State's debt woes.

The sites are among 20 State-owned land assets listed for sale, which it plans to have divested in 12 to 18 months for commercial, residential and retail use.

But the Government had also previously committed the proceeds from the sale of the department sites to build a $234 million state-of-the-art department headquarters at Kensington.

In the last Budget, the Government outlined the Asset Investment Program which included the department's headquarters redevelopment, including the Australian Export Grain Innovation Centre.

Shadow agriculture and food minister Ken Travers said he was concerned the building of any new head building may now be delayed.

"The fact that the Government is now selling the land for debt reduction makes me extremely concerned they may be planning to defer the construction of the new headquarters," he said.

"If the Government is saying the proceeds from the sale of the sites are now going to be used for debt, it only leaves $18 million for the project from an appropriation in the Budget.

"So that means more than $216 million will have to be added to the forward estimates over the next two Budgets if the Government is serious about its completion by 2020."

Mr Travers said the State could not afford to delay building a new facility any longer.

"WA's market future is in premium product - clean, green and disease free and if we don't upgrade our facility sooner rather than later, we put our State's biosecurity at risk," he said.

"Modern and up-to-date research facilities and laboratories are required to handle modern-day biosecurity threats.

"The facilities which will be required if there is a biosecurity outbreak cannot be from the 1950s, it needs to be from the 21st century, but also it is what is essential to protect our image as disease and pest free."

But Department of Lands director-general Colin Slattery said the Government was still committed to the project.

"The Government land asset sales program includes a review of office accommodation options including the leasing or acquisition of new government properties," he said.

"Before any land asset sale, Government will consider core business requirements of State Government agencies and best use of a government asset."

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