ONE of two new grain receival and bulk storage sites in the Upper Great Southern region proposed by Bunge Agribusiness Australia has received planning approval.
West Arthur shire, at its February 24 council meeting, approved Bunge's application for an initial four 40,000 tonne storage bunker pads, weighbridge, sampling platform with classification hut, administration office with amenities and tarpaulin shed on 39 hectares of farmland near Arthur River.
The proposed site is on two lots owned by Oakover Farm, which is divided by an unconstructed road reserve on the north side of Coalfields Highway, 1.2 kilometres west of Albany Highway, Arthur River .
When developed it will feed Bunge's ship-loading facility at Bunbury Port.
However, construction cannot begin until Bunge reaches agreement with the Department of Lands to purchase the road reserve and a formal statutory road closure procedure is completed.
A second planning application for four 30,000t storage bunker pads, weighbridge, sampling platform and administration office at north Kukerin, 95km east of Arthur River on the Dumbleyung-Lake Grace Road, will be considered by Dumbleyung shire on March 19.
Bunge has said it intends to have both sites operating for the 2015-16 harvest.
Plans submitted to West Arthur shire showed it proposed to build a further two 30,000t and two 26,000t bunker storage pads in the future, which would lift total storage capacity to 272,000t.
The council determined maximum storage could not go beyond 200,000t without further approval.
A report to the council stated it had confirmed with Bunge that the capacity would be 200,000t.
While no objections to the proposal were received when it was advertised for comment, submissions by Collie and Wagin shires and nearby farmer Karen Prowse raised concerns about increased truck traffic.
The report stated Collie Shire had advised it would continue on-going discussion with Main Roads over Coalfields Highway safety issues.
Wagin Shire's submission by chief executive officer Peter Webster pointed out there were no overtaking lanes on a significant section of the Coalfields Highway near the development, which could lead to "more frustrated drivers and possibly resulting in an increase in traffic accidents".
Ms Prowse said her husband Graeme regularly moved sheep across Coalfields Highway between paddocks at two locations.
She was concerned that "fully loaded trucks keeping to a schedule" were unlikely to slow at stock crossings at the bottom of hills.
She asked that an underpass stock crossing be investigated.
The planning approval required Bunge to build a "right-turn pocket" on Coalfields Highway to accommodate farm trucks turning into the site from the east.
However, the report to council stated that on-going negotiations between Main Roads and Bunge had established that once truck movements leaving the proposed site in any one direction reached 30 an hour, an acceleration lane will be required.
While approving the application, the council decided to advise local MP Terry Waldron that it had concerns about increased truck traffic on Coalfields Highway and in Darkan and Wagin townsites.
"While it is acknowledged that the State Government is upgrading the roads, there is a need to provide passing lanes on the western side of the subject land and stock underpasses," the council resolved.
Chief executive officer Nicole Wasmann said the council would continue discussions with Main Roads about road safety issues relating to truck traffic entering and leaving the site and increased truck traffic on Coalfields Highway.
"The council wanted to encourage the development - we think it will be good for the area, good for farmers and could help provide local employment - but at the same time we wanted to achieve the best road safety outcomes possible," Ms Wasmann said.
Dumbleyung Shire chief executive officer Matthew Gilfellon said the Bunge application to build a storage facility on Lot 52 Dumbleyung-Lake Grace Road, on the corner of Carwardine Road, 8km west of the Kukerin townsite, had been advertised for comment.
Mr Gilfellon said it had attracted a few submissions.
The site was zoned rural and the intended use was compatible with that zoning, he said.
Plans for the Kukerin site show a proposal for a future extra four bunker pads.
Bunge's WA regional manager Christopher Tyson reconfirmed Bunge's intention to have both sites operating at half capacity, at least, for this year's harvest.
"I can't say yet whether they will be built concurrently or whether we will build them separately and try to use some local companies for each one,'' Mr Tyson said.
"Obviously, the sooner we make a start on them, the earlier they will be ready for harvest."
He said the planning approval process at West Arthur Shire had not raised any unforeseen issues to delay the project and none were expected at Dumbleyung.
Mr Tyson said there had been "good support" from growers for the proposed receival sites.
"Based on what growers told us, we felt there was a need,'' he said.
"Ultimately it is growers who will benefit from an alternative option to get their grain to port."
Bunge filled four ships from July to December in its Bunbury Port facility's first six months of operation, with growers and contractors delivering direct to its 50,000t storage facilities there.
Mr Tyson said another ship was expected soon.