Funding, water issues plague Keirnan Park dream

Funding, water issues plague Keirnan Park dream

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It’s been almost six years since the community was gifted a large parcel of land in Mundijong to transform into an enviable sporting and recreation facility for the region.

And it was a decade-long fight to convince the state government to divest that land and gift it to the shire in the first place.

Back then, the shire’s many sporting clubs and groups were struggling to make do with the limited space on offer – a situation which has only gotten worse as the shire’s population has expanded.

Shire officers have predicted the population of Mundijong alone will grow by up to 40,000 people in the coming decades, with sod-turning imminent on new estates between the SW Highway and Tonkin Extension.

And necessary sporting facility upgrades and other infrastructure projects like the Briggs Park pavilion are being put on hold while the community waits for Keirnan Park to materialise. So, time is of the essence.

But the first stage of the estimated six-stage project has already been delayed by years; it was originally envisaged a pavilion, two ovals, carpark and entry road would be ready for use in 2022.

The council approved the master plan for the precinct exactly three years ago, in March 2021.

Keirnan Park Master Plan

Currently, construction is slated to start on Stage 1A in the second half of this year. But tenders are yet to be released to the market.

The delays can partially be attributed to an initial design misstep, with the plan out of kilter with relevant sporting group expectations, but overwhelmingly to an unforeseen ground water supply issue.

The shire has estimated that a whopping 250,000 kl will be required annually to service the entire park once it’s developed.

That’s around 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools-worth of H2O.

Stage 1A alone, with its two ovals, pavilion, main access road and carpark facilities, will require an anticipated 52,000 kl of water annually.

“Should there be no resolution regarding finding adequate water source, the project will not go into construction phase,” shire officers wrote in their December 2022 report to council.

Thankfully the shire published some good news last week; the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) will allow the shire to apply to allocate water supply for the project from a Cattamara Coal Measures deep aquifer.

“The Cattamara Coal Measures are a series of aquifers located within the Perth basin, which the shire will apply to source 50,000 kilolitres of water from to support delivery of Stage 1A of the future major sporting facility,” the project update reads.

“The application will be lodged in the coming weeks and follows on from a substantial H2 water investigation carried out by the shire in December 2023.”

So, good news…providing the state water regulator approves the application. But the elephant in the room is where the remaining 200,000 kl of water for the rest of the precinct will be sourced.

Another issue which has raised a few eyebrows is the spend on the project.

As they say, time is money. And with universal industry price hikes, that saying has never been truer.

Flashback to 2018 when Premier Mark McGowan gifted the 60ha+ site to the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale

In August 2020 the state government committed $20 million for the first stage of the development (1A) – that’s on top of the value of the land which was gifted back in 2018.

By 2022, the shire had already realised that the $20 mil wasn’t going to take them through to ribbon-cutting.

To date, $3.5 million of that initial $20 million has been spent without a single sod turned.

“The shire and state government entered into a Financial Assistance Agreement on 21 December 2020, outlining that the state government would provide $2 million (of the already committed $20 million) in funding to advance the planning of Stage 1A of the Keirnan Park precinct. A further $1.5 million, of the remaining $18 million, was then approved to progress further planning works,” shire president Rob Coales said.

So, the shire went cap in hands to ask for some more cash.

“In May 2023, the shire received a commitment from the state government for an additional $2 million towards the project, contingent on the shire matching this contribution. A report will be presented to council in the coming months to consider the additional funding towards the project,” president Coales said.

The whole precinct was estimated to cost around $162 million back in 2021. That number will certainly be blown out unless the scope of the project is downgraded.

Completion of Stage 1B and C of the Keirnan Park precinct was always contingent on obtaining more funding. The business case states that funding for the BMX park will be sourced through the federal government’s Building Better Regions Fund. While the netball courts’ funding will come from undetermined state/federal government grants.

But so far, pleas to the federal government for help have been unsuccessful.

“The shire has advocated to the federal government over many years for funding towards the Keirnan Park project. Unfortunately, no funding commitments have been received,” president Coales said.

“We will continue to advocate heavily to secure funding for development of the Keirnan Park netball courts at the upcoming state and federal government elections.”