WA groups welcome northern plans

27 Jun, 2015 02:00 AM
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WAFarmers president Dale Park is pleased that northern infrastructure will get additional government funding.
WAFarmers president Dale Park is pleased that northern infrastructure will get additional government funding.

WA farm groups have cautiously welcomed the Federal Government's grand plans for northern Australia, following the release of its long awaited White Paper.

The Northern Development White Paper outlines development opportunities for the north, including $200 million to build water infrastructure, $6m to develop new and seal existing roads and programs to broaden training and employment.

Kimberley Cattlemen's Association chief executive officer Gill Stassen said the White Paper is a good paper and that the government covered most of the issues facing the north, however some issues in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions were not addressed.

"The reality is they didn't allocate the funds or address the real issues," he said.

"The bottom line is the funding will be shared by the States over 20 years and we don't know how it will be divided.

"The truth is it could make things harder for our members, we need security of land tenure, diversification approvals and to resolve issues within the supply chain."

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook said the White Paper contained good news, but offered false hope.

"I see this as giving someone a heart massage, when they are having a heart attack," Mr Seabrook said.

"Promising $200m to build water infrastructure - it's probably not enough and it could also trigger a list of native title issues.

"It could potentially cost more in compensation than projects are worth.

"With the roads, $600m will evaporate in a second.

"Tanami Road is only one of the roads that they have on their list, and with how Australia builds roads, it's too expensive and it won't cover all the costs."

But Mr Seabrook said new employment initiatives were positive, including: expanding seasonal workers programs to agriculture industries, broadening eligibility criteria for access to skills and training under the Industry Skills fund and retaining existing access to second year visas for backpackers who work on farms for 88 days and extending second year visa access to backpackers from other countries.

WAFarmers also warily welcomed the White Paper, recognising that the developmental blueprint was a good start.

WAFarmers president Dale Park said it was pleasing infrastructure would receive significant funding.

"Agriculture is an intrinsic part of northern Australia but it will require a lot of support to reach its full potential," Mr Park said.

"The bottom line is, they've taken the first step but there is a lot of work still to be done."

Mr Park said the government's commitment, in terms of funding and policy, would be a welcome contribution to the region if it has long-term bipartisan support.

Some of the key projects for the northern agriculture sector include:

p $600m for priority road projects.

p Funding to assist in finalising native title claims

p $200m to build water infrastructure, tied to developing secure water rights as part of a new National Water Infrastructure Development Fund

p Expanding the Seasonal Worker Program to all agricultural industries

p Broadening eligibility criteria for access to skills and training under the Industry Skills Fund.

p Retaining existing access to second year visas for backpackers who work on farms for 88 days and extending second year visa access to backpackers from other countries if they work on farms or in tourism in northern Australia

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