Transform Peel - Southern Spain on Our Doorstep

Fantastic to see the announcement of $49.3 million Royalties for Regions funds for Stage 1 of the Transform Peel project.   I have had significant involvement in this project over the last few years (in my previous life as Principal consultant with Pracsys), and I believe this is project has significant potential to be transformational beyond the Peel Region - to catalyse next-generation food production across Western Australia as a whole.

The vision is for an integrated food precinct in the upper Pallus Plain in the Peel region.  Until recently this land had been assumed to eventually turn into suburban housing. It is now considered inappropriate for urban development - with an opportunity to instead develop an economic asset for the State.  The  precinct has the potential to develop into an export-focused peri-urban food precinct that integrates stormwater treatment and storage, with horticulture, genetic research, and secondary food processing.

The upper Pallus Plain is characterised by:

·       The largest remaining land parcels in the southern greater Perth corridor

·       Degraded soils 

·       High water table that flushes significant quantities of stormwater into the Peel Inlet annually.  This water has high levels of particulates and agri-chemicals contributing to the degradation of the inlet (WA’s chief scientist recently stated that the inlet is in danger of ecological collapse)

·       Close proximity to infrastructure and workforce

·       Disconnection from existing service infrastructure

Over the last 4-years a dedicated team led by the Peel Development Commission (with support by enterprises including Pracsys and GHD) developed a three-pronged project that focused on de-risking future investment by local and international parties. The three prongs of the project are:

Integrated water initiative that includes activities such as:

·       Research and mapping of superficial and deep aquifer water resources

·       Stormwater capture, treatment, storage and transmission

·       Soil augmentation and drain upgrades

·       Linkages with legacy industries, in particular Alcoa’s activities in Pinjarra and Waroona

Food Zone development that includes activities such as:

·       Development of an internationally recognised food genetics research facility 

·       Pilot projects focusing on proving the commerciality of out-of-soil, closed loop horticulture initiatives 

·       Development of integrated planning systems to anticipate project needs and mitigate environmental challenges

Peel Business Park that includes activities such as:

·       Off-grid technologies including solar thermal, biomass and onsite waste water treatment that feed into industrial food processes

·       Integrated production precinct including abattoirs, composting and secondary food production (e.g. noodle manufacturing) that utilise industrial ecology principals (waste outputs inputs into other processes)

·       Integration into other complementary industrial processes

·       Workforce training

It’s a big project but I believe it actually is the first stage in a much bigger opportunity to develop a continuous intensive food production precinct that extends from Peel through to Busselton (think southern Spain).   If we are to develop a diverse, export-oriented economy for the next century, food represents a massive opportunity – we have the land and climate.  We just need to link it with smart operators, savvy regulators and targeted capital.