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published November 1, 2021 on The West Australian

A Western Trade Coast (WTC) Development Board is the State’s best chance of bringing the lucrative, $16 billion in economic output, region to its maximum potential, according to the Kwinana Industries Council.

Operating as a gateway between Australia’s existing and emerging trading partners, the Western Trade Coast (WTC) is a thriving industrial hub employing about 30,000 skilled workers in a 3900-hectare expanse along the Cockburn Sound coastline.

Home to a large variety of critical industries, the WTC has a complex manufacturing and production portfolio but operating under a unique set of constraints around planning, land use, infrastructure provision, and project development.

Essential buffer zones to protect homeowners from industrial impact are at risk of encroachment by residential estates, infrastructure is outdated, future freight corridors have been mismanaged and industry has experienced lengthy wait times to have critical land rezoned for large major projects of State significance.

According to Kwinana Industries Council (KIC) Director Chris Oughton, these issues are among several exacerbated by having at least 13 government departments and three local governments all playing a role in the governance of the region. Each with their own set of rules, regulations, priorities and plans, many of which don’t interrelate, creating red tape, bottleneck constraints and process complexity for industry. In short, he said, “the governance machine has proven itself to be beyond repair”.

He said the main benefit of establishing a WTC Development Board would be to streamline governance and allow a dedicated team of industry-savvy experts to be accountable for de-constraining the area and growing its economic output.

“The numerous public sector agencies involved in the management of the WTC also have management functions spanning the State and of course can’t be expected to focus their attention solely on the State’s premier Industrial Area,” Mr Oughton said

“The presence of a private sector-style governing board would be liberating for the WTC. It would manage the area under one roof, under one CEO, under one plan. It would focus effort, and it would deliver the results that the current approach demonstrably cannot possibly achieve.” Mr Oughton said the Development Board would have the ability to investigate best-practice approaches for de-constraining the WTC and implement these changes to improve business competition on the domestic and world stage.

The Development Board will include a variety of industrial experts, be accountable to its single shareholder, the State of Western Australia, for the delivery across a set of challenging key performance indicators, and it would need to deliver a return to the State, much like the old Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority was, only on steroids”.

“The single biggest advantage of a WTC Development Board would be the coordination role, removing the burden on industry that the present departmental model – no matter how well it has been set up – can only inevitably fail to deliver,” Mr Oughton said.

“The board’s role would be to listen to industry and to fix the constraints that are holding it back, and to clear the pathway for the establishment of new, complimentary industries.”

Mr Oughton said the prospect of a strategic development plan was also popular among proponents of a WTC Development Board model, who believed listening to industry and forward planning were the keys to safeguarding the region.

According to the KIC, exploring and implementing a strategic vision for the industrial hub will attract more businesses to the area and grow economic output.

The approach is also expected to deter existing businesses from deciding to expand in other state or countries better accommodation of their project expansion plans exist where common user infrastructure is provided and a holistic governance environment exists.

“Businesses share many collegiate issues that would benefit from an integrated as opposed to failed siloed management approach,” Mr Oughton said.

“A board like this would prove to be invaluable to the State’s prosperity. It could be used as a model for other proposed or existing complex strategic industrial areas, and could even effectively make me redundant, which I am sure would be music to the ears of some.”

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