Amid rumours that a Chinese property conglomerate has won the right to develop land in the second stage of the Ord River expansion in the Kimberley, Premier Colin Barnett says he will not reveal who has won the lease until next week.
Media reports this morning said Chinese property conglomerate Shanghai Zhongfu had been awarded all 15,200 hectares of land in the tender process.
The Chinese group is believed to have been selected from a short-list of three companies; Australian Agricultural Co was believed to have proposed cotton growing on the irrigated land, while TFS Corporation had proposed expanding its sandalwood plantations in the area.
The $500 million Ord expansion project is part of a state and federal government plan to continue the development of farming in the area.
However, Mr Barnett said the contract would not be announced until next week and refused to be baited by rumours.
He said stage two of the project involved $300 million from the WA government to extend the canal infrastructure, as well as $200 million in federal funding for social improvements including health and housing for Aboriginal people.
"Will governments get their money back? No, they will not," Mr Barnett said.
"But this is part of developing an agricultural industry in the north of the state.
"It's about improving the conditions for Aboriginal people, particularly giving large numbers jobs and economic independence, and basically it's about developing the north."
Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan told reporters that it was a decision for the WA government.
"If it is going to progress, there may well be some application that may come to the Foreign Investment Review Board, but at the moment this is a decision by the West Australian government," he said.