Executive Summary

South West Regional Futures notes a high degree of alignment between key regional planning and regional development documents, backed by consensus among regional stakeholders.

Image by Frances Andrijich, Koomal Dreaming

This website blends existing industry strengths with new opportunities in advanced manufacturing and the digital space. Neither can be separated from community and environment, one acknowledging the importance of liveability and the other underpinning what South West residents love most about their region.

It is clear that everything is connected. Sustainable energy and a healthy natural environment underline integrity in industry and the necessary green credentials required in the new era. The South West brand is one of clean, green productivity and liveability leveraging tourism visitation product value, particularly in the food and wine sector.

Economic infrastructure is an economic enabler. Roads, rail, development of the region’s port and key airport are all important along with digital capability, energy and water security in a drying climate.

South West Regional Futures flags the looming need for an intermodal terminal, recognising that infrastructure in Bunbury will serve Perth and the Peel region. That hub will connect the port, Kemerton industrial area via roads and rail. It will comprise an interoperable focal point for transport efficiencies and connections to the region’s centre which is 185km from Perth, the world’s most isolated major city.

Mining and mine processing are the South West’s most significant economic contributors. With the growth of the Greenbushes lithium mine, the highest grade and largest hard rock lithium deposit in the world, and the current development of the multi-billion-dollar Albemarle processing plant, mining and minerals processing will become ever more important.

Energy production in the region is experiencing unprecedented disruption. The days are numbered for traditional coal-fired baseload electricity generation and a local industry dating back to the 19th Century. Closures echo trends towards new energy and growth options that have seen solar and wind become the cheapest forms of power generation.

That transition has led to proposals to develop an advanced manufacturing hub. It is a plan that marries opportunity with land availability, resources, skills training and global trends. There is alignment with policy to decouple from an over reliance on overseas supply chains, to utilise green energy and enhance the region’s market access through high quality transport networks including digital connectivity.

Indeed, the South West is well placed to pursue opportunities in innovation and technology with Bunbury poised to underline its status as Western Australia’s second city.

The existing forestry and timber industry is highlighted as a fully functioning and collaborative cluster supplying export markets and creating products at a state and national scale. Opportunities abound in capturing carbon through a greater use of timber and expanding the plantation estate.

Tourism is of fundamental importance to the South West, as an employer and enhancing the regional brand at the international level. The Capes subregion is one of Australia’s most tourism-dependent regions and a host of proposals can only heighten the South West’s standing in the world while adding value locally through employment and changed perceptions, particularly in respect of Bunbury’s waterfront. World-beating plans to develop an internationally-recognised underwater observatory at Busselton, Australia’s first motorcycle trail hub in Manjimup, and, first class mountain biking experiences at a number of regional locations all add to brand reputation.

In transforming the community, South West Regional Futures looks to further boost the regional brand. Creating a circular economy adds value across business, manufacturing, jobs and environment.

Planned investment elevates the region to sectoral leadership, establishing new standards in the waste industry and achieving State and Commonwealth policy goals.

Liveability remains a key regional advantage. From the 20-minute city to magnificent geo-landscapes, the South West can be a drawcard for decentralisation in the public and private sectors.

However, the region is not without its challenges. Accommodation shortages creates hurdles for existing business and opportunities. There are housing shortages for critical mineral workers, those in tourism, agriculture and barriers for recruiting medical professionals as the Bunbury health campus expands.

Attention must be also drawn vto limitations to water supplies. There needs to be greater endogenous growth in training and skilling, more investment in the ageing population – active ageing, social housing and aged health. There needs to be innovative thinkingto address housing issues and the first Australians must be properly engaged sothey too can enjoy the journey towards better standards of living.

There is no lack of ideas and lists of projects to be funded, from rebuilding old sports pavilions and imagining trackless trams to re-routing roads and creating new berths at the port. However, there remains a limited funding capacity.

South West Regional Futures features a range of projects of differing scale, cost and impact. In particular, the document suggests a framework of consideration and notes those projects that are genuinely transformative in their nature.