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A look into WA’s future at the Major Projects Conference

The WA Major Projects Conference turns 10 this week but it’s to the future that attendees will be looking when proceedings get underway on Wednesday.

The conference offers an annual, in-depth and eagerly-anticipated look at the infrastructure, trends and strategies that will shape the state and the 2019 version is no exception.

Here are some of the highlights I’m looking forward to this week.

Future Perth
You can’t get away from the fact that the major projects being worked on now are essentially designed for a Perth that doesn’t exist yet – the one that will consist of 3.5 million people by 2050.

Many of the presentations over the two days tie in with this theme but one I’m particularly interested in is an update from the Department of Communities’ Greg Cash on the Connect Joondalup and Bentley 360 developments. It’s no secret that urban sprawl is a major and ongoing issue for Perth and these government-led projects could be infill templates for the future.

Lithium Land
WA’s unique opportunity in the battery materials and new energy space has been widely publicised over the past 12 months. But the economics and size of the opportunity are so immense that it can’t really be understated.

Three separate presentations will zero in on WA’s potential to become Lithium Valley¸ with sessions led by Cameron Edwards from Infranomics (Trade and a Kwinana port), Chris Rodwell from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA (Our place in the battery value chain) and Peter Newman from Curtin University’s Sustainable Policy Institute (The growing market for batteries).

Thinking Big
BHP launched its new slogan a couple of years back and it fits in well with the Pilbara’s South Flank, which is on its way to being one of the world’s biggest iron ore operations.

I’m looking forward to a progress report on a project BHP is touting as market-leading when it comes to autonomy, digital connectivity and diversity.

Social licence
Whatever project you are embarking on, it’s clear that addressing community expectations and concerns must be part of your approach.

Our former Cannings Purple colleague William Witham will present on the origins of social licence in mining and Australia’s regulatory framework – topics that will have extra resonance given some of the recent discussions around carbon emissions.

Going places
Not surprisingly, transport – both freight and passenger-orientated – is seen as a major issue for the Perth (and WA) of the future.

There will be four sessions dedicated to it, including an overview of Perth Airport’s proposed new runway from CEO Kevin Brown, an exclusive update on the Westport strategy from taskforce chair Nicole Lockwood and a look at the State Government’s cycling infrastructure plans from the Department of Transport’s Craig Wooldridge. And let’s not forget an examination of METRONET and what it means from Doc Frank Rail Services founder Dr Frank Heibel.

Of course, there’s one other thing that I’m looking forward to – and that’s my own presentation on WA’s energy policy.

I’ll be examining the links between our energy policy and the development of the resources sector and why getting policy settings right to encourage new investment in power generation is a key to our continued economic wellbeing.

Richard Harris is the chairperson of the WA Independent Power Association, spokesperson for DomGas Alliance and Special Counsel at Cannings Purple, specialising in energy and resources and government relations. Contact Richard.

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