WA Budget 2021-22: Minister Alannah MacTiernan says big project delays are for the ‘benefit of everyone’

Headshot of Kate Campbell
Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
Alannah MacTiernan and Geraldton MLA Lara Dalton after the State Budget breakfast in Geraldton.
Camera IconAlannah MacTiernan and Geraldton MLA Lara Dalton after the State Budget breakfast in Geraldton. Credit: Kate Campbell

The construction industry would have overheated if the State Government didn’t step in and push back starting dates for a raft of projects, including the Geraldton finfish nursery, according to minister Alannah MacTiernan.

The Minister for Regional Development, Agriculture And Hydrogen Industry was in Geraldton on Friday to brief business and community leaders about the McGowan Government’s 2021-22 Budget, handed down the day before with a massive $5.6 billion surplus.

Sixteen projects were delayed for one to two years, including the Geraldton finfish nursery which has now been pushed back a year for a completion date in mid-2023.

“Industry has been asking for this to happen,” Ms MacTiernan said. “Because demand is so high at this particular point in time, that the market for labour and for materials really runs the risk of being overheated.

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“So what we need to do is smooth this out. For example in the housing sector, that has been in the doldrums for a number of years so there’s massive catch-up that is now being under way.”

Ms MacTiernan said demand was expected to normalise over the next two years, and the project delays were for “the benefit of everyone”. “If we’re trying to deliver those in an overheated market, it just makes everything more expensive for the taxpayer and... for companies that are trying to operate in that space as well,” she said.

Ms MacTiernan said the healthy state of WA’s economy and the Government managing to keep the resources sector running in the middle of a pandemic proved that “tough love has paid off”.

Asked what incentives the Government would offer businesses to switch from fuel to hydrogen, Ms MacTiernan said expressions of interest would be issued in the next couple of months to tackle that issue. “We know that we’ve got to stimulate demand. And one of the best places to start is diesel replacement,” she said.

“At the moment if you go a fuel cell truck, the capital cost is probably twice what you’re paying for a diesel truck......(in this EoI) we will ask groups to come together to put forward propositions, whether it be for buses, or trucks, or boats; whereby we can provide some assistance with that increased capital costs and some assistance with the refuelling infrastructure to kickstart this.”

In the days before the Budget, the Government announced a $50 million fund to stimulate local demand for renewable hydrogen and drive investment in the emerging sector.

It also announced an extra $4m, on top of the $7.5m promised during the election campaign, to develop and upgrade infrastructure to kickstart the Oakajee strategic industrial area.

Ms MacTiernan said industry interest was strong and the Government was in talks with “lots of trucking companies”.

“If we can get one of these projects to fly up here in Geraldton, that would be good,” she said.

“But either way, we want to get it started.

“It’s a bit like what was needed in solar and wind, they are now capable of standing on their own two feet, they are more than competitive with fossil fuel.”

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