14 May 2014
Peter De Kruijff
The creation of a special economic zone for agribusiness in North West WA was a major talking point at a forum held by Pilbara and Kimberley local governments in Indonesia last week.
Pilbara Regional Council chief executive Tony Friday said the Jakarta forum, attended by State and local government officials from both countries, went even better than expected.
“The first day was really about setting the scene,” he said.
“It all came together on the second afternoon where we had a panel discussion … talking about the development of North West Australia.”
This was when AEC South East Asia principal economist Carey Ramm presented a feasibility study into forming a special economic zone for the Pilbara region.
Special economic zones are geographical areas in a country exempt from certain taxes and laws.
Mr Friday said the PRC had been talking with the State and Federal governments for a while about establishing a zone.
“We want to work with the AEC to develop an agribusiness special economic zone for the Pilbara and the North West,” he said.
Mr Friday said this lined up nicely with Indonesia’s growing middle class, expected to grow from 30 million to 110 million in the next decade, with an emphasis on demand for beef per head which was also rising from 2kg a year to 30kg. “There’s a very large opportunity on the doorstep of North West Australia, but at the moment we’re not ready to answer the doorbell,” he said.
“If there was a negative takeaway, it was a growing awareness among State and local government that there is still a bit of work to do in how to package and market for direct foreign investment.”
Nationals Member for Mining and Pastoral Jacqui Boydell gave a presentation at the forum about opportunities for foreign investment in the Pilbara and Kimberley.
She said recent investments into Kimberley agriculture might not have occurred without foreign investors.
“There’s real optimism to take the next step, also a real realisation we’ve had government infrastructure spends, major investments from a social infrastructure perspective, so where can we take it next,” she said.
Ms Boydell said those who attended recognised it had been proactive for the PRC to take that forum to Australia’s closest foreign neighbours to show them investment was being encouraged.
Shire of Roebourne president Peter Long said building personal relationships in Indonesia was an important aspect for future business or talks.
He also said there could be more exciting opportunities in agriculture and aquaculture.
Courtesy of Pilbara News
14 May 2014