Region draws the dollars

The drawbridge is no longer raised as a barrier to investment in the South West.

That was the consensus of a number of speakers at the recent regional conference held by the Property Council in Bunbury.

The theme of the two day conference was The City of Bunbury and the South West Vision for the 21st Century.

According to many at the conference, Bunbury and the South West are ready to meet the 21st century with a vibrant and forward thinking business community.

Investments worth hundreds of millions of dollars lead the charge. Add the $219 million worth of planned tourism investment for the South West and the optimism of many in the region is no surprise.

Developments include the $800 million expansion at Worsley Alumina, a $257 million Alcoa expansion, the new Collie power station at a cost of $600 million and Westralian Sands’ $134 million synthetic rutile plant at Capel.

Residential developments in-clude the Koombana Cove development undertaken by the Fini Group and Landcorp’s Marleston Hill development. Both are in the heart of Bunbury.

Michael Swift, chief executive officer of the Shire of Busselton, said the South West region must utilise its resources while maintaining local character and keeping in place the key components which attract people to the region.

“Debate has changed from development versus environmental issues to the theme of maintaining character,” Mr Swift said.

He said local councils were improving the way in which they deal with developers.

“There are moves to standardise tender specifications throughout the region and towards greater consistency in dealing with development across councils”, he said.

WA Tourism Commission reg-ional tourism development director Mark Exeter said tourism will remain a driving force behind development in WA’s south west well into the next century.

“Many local governments haven’t really been involved in tourism before and as a result often oppose development out of fear,” Mr Exeter said.

Tourism projects on the board include the $12 million Gnarabup Resort at Margaret River, the $40 million Bunkers Bay resort in Dunsborough, the redevelopment of Busselton’s Abbey Beach Resort and a multi-million dollar redevelopment of Caves House at Yallingup.

“Last year there were 1.5 million visitors to the South West with a total economic impact of $328 million,” he said.

Mr Exeter said trends in the tourism sector included further development of the coastal strip, the emergence of a forest belt of wine and craft industries, reduced seasonality and specialisation such as Aboriginal and eco tourism.

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