Selling off the Ord for a little Sugar

Robin Chapple MLC, Greens WA spokesperson for the Mining and Pastoral Region, today condemned the Grylls-Barnett decision to hand over the right to develop 13,400 hectares of prime Ord-East Kimberley Expansion Project land to Kimberley Agricultural Investment, an Australian company wholly owned by the Chinese real estate company Shanghai Zhongfu.

“This is a curious decision, not least because Shanghai Zhongfu is a construction and real estate company, with no experience in agricultural ventures,” Mr Chapple said.

“Far from being used to grow food, as has been suggested for years by Mr Barnett and Mr Grylls, almost the entire Ord irrigation area will now be dedicated to growing sugar, exporting sugar and producing sugar-based products such as ethanol and fibre board. So much for the much touted ‘food bowl’.

“To allocate large tracts of land to foreign investors above the interests of Australian companies, which are likely to yield little, if any, food or financial dividends to the Western Australian community is ludicrous. It can hardly be called a ‘local’ economy stimulation package.

“The Ord-East Kimberley Expansion Project has cost Australian taxpayers more than $500million, the vast majority of which has been Royalties for Regions funding.

“Shanghai Zhongfu has been awarded a 50-year lease at a peppercorn rent of the new Ord Expansion Project area that was developed with taxpayers’ money.

“In encouraging broad-scale monoculture, this government is not working towards Australia’s food security, nor promoting local growth and resilience.

“It is allowing a project largely dependent on public money to be wholly controlled by foreign investment. What good is this to the Western Australian people? A few jobs here and there are hardly worth the millions spent on the development of this scheme.”

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