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Gascoyne may be WA's next fly-in fly-out hub

By Staff Reporter
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Western Australia’s Gascoyne area has the potential to become a fly-in fly-out hub, according to a recent planning proposal for the area.

The Gascoyne Regional Planning and Infrastructure Framework draft follows the release of recent frameworks for the investment hotspot of the mid-west Pilbara. A similar plan for the Kimberley region is currently underway.

This is the “first time” that the entire Gascoyne region has been given complete planning consideration, said planning minister John Day yesterday.

The draft, prepared for the Western Australian Planning Commission by the Department of Planning, will be the start of a coordinated approach for the area and will be an important planning tool for those looking at the area, Mr Day also announced.

“It follows the WAPC’s recent release of regional planning and infrastructure frameworks for the Mid-West and Pilbara regions with a similar framework for the Kimberley region also being prepared."

Western Australian Planning Commission chairman, Gary Prattley, stated in his foreword in the draft that it is a crucial document for the future of the area.

“The Gascoyne Regional Planning and Infrastructure Framework will be a critical driver in identifying the region’s economic potential through a whole of Government approach,” Mr Prattley said.

“Sustained prosperity in the region however, will depend very much on the development of key infrastructure and diversification of local industries.”

Once approved, this will be the guideline document for land use, priority actions and infrastructure decisions.

Mining is the second largest industry in the area, after tourism, with a contribution of $142.3 million to the gross regional product in 2009/2010.

Currently much of the mining is concentrated on salt production in the Shire of Shark Bay and near Cape Cuvier, and it provides nearly half of WA’s salt production, the report states.

“Due to an increase in the global price of salt and exchange rate differences in the global financial market, the mining sector in the Gascoyne has recently seen a significant increase in production and value, increasing from $57.5 million in 2007-08."

There are also plans for a future expansion at Lake MacLeod in 2014, from 764 hectares to 1,000, according to the Department of Regional Development and Lands.

Oil and gas production is also substantial in the area, primarily occurring in the Exmouth sub-basin offshore, while semi-precious stones are also heavily present.

“The proposed development of a mineral sands project south of Shark Bay will assist in diversifying the region’s mining sector and is expected to create significant employment,” the report added.

“Deposits of uranium, gold, diamonds and other minerals in the inland Gascoyne may also provide opportunity for the expansion and diversification of mining in the region.”

Also included in the draft is discussion of the expansion of Rio Tinto Lake McLeod production, further on and off shore exploration, increased air transport options, affordable housing options and the development of supporting ancillary industries to service mining activity.

The framework’s draft is on display for public comment until September 28.

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