More fun and games for Collie

THE State Government has backed a plan to transform a disused Wesfarmers coal mine near Collie into a water skiing and recreational facility.

The Government backing opens the way for Wesfarmers to fill what has been a problematic100-hectare hole in part of its rehabilitation obligations with the State Government under the Coal Mining Agreement Act.

Millions of dollars have been ploughed into the defunct Wesfarmers Premier Coal Ltd mine during the past two years, including hundreds of thousands of dollars from the State Government to develop a sprint circuit for Motoring SouthWest on the old Haul Road that runs behind the pit.

A Steering Committee, with representation from Wesfarmers, the South West Development Commission, the Shire of Collie, the Waters and Rivers Comm-ission and CALM has been formed to undertake a feasibility study into the future use of the 2.2 kilometre, 70-metre deep site.

Minister for the South West Jim McGinty, visiting Collie this week, said the site was being made ready for recreational use by grading the top slopes of the mine to provide future users with safe beaches.

“It is anticipated it will take approximately two to three years for the coal mine’s void to fill to its natural water level,” Mr McGinty said.

“Wesfarmers Premier Coal Ltd has a clear vision of transforming the coal mine into a valuable community asset and is currently undertaking extensive rehabilit-ation work.”

Collie Shire president Rosanne Pimm said it was still very early days and the steering committee had yet to hold its inagural meeting. Ms Pimm said she was very excited by the project’s tourism potential.

The owner of a Collie Motel has already registered interest in developing chalets alongside the water.

During his whirlwind visit to the town, Mr McGinty also committed $25,000 for the development of a master plan for a planned tourism precinct at the entrance of the mining town.

“The minister went there (to Collie)… for 10 minutes and ended up staying for half an hour so that’s quite something,” Collie Labor MLA Mick Murray told Business News.

The National Party, however, is not so enthused, suggesting the Government’s sudden interest in Collie is little more than pork barrelling.

Mr Murray won the seat of Collie from Hilda Turnbull by just 34 votes at the last State election.

“Its simply sop to the people of Collie because on the one hand they are giving and at the same time they are taking away their local member,” National Party director Jamie Kronborg said, referring to the Labor Party’s drive to reduce the number of country parliamentarians through electoral changes.

Mr Murray dismissed suggest-ions that the Government was throwing money at the marginal seat.

“If you look at the State budget you will see that its not a case of pork barrelling,” he said.

Mr Murray said he was not happy with the amount of money that Collie and other inland areas had received in the budget compared with coastal seats, but was happy that the party now supported him after he explained “the position” to them.

Wesfarmers Premier Coal Limited managing director Tom Kuzman was unavailable for comment.

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