Feature Article - FACTBase Special Report - Kwinana as a catalyst for economic development


This month, the Committee for Perth released our FACTBase Special Report – Kwinana as a catalyst for economic development. This report was undertaken as a key contribution to the Bigger & Better Beyond the Boom project, and sought to examine the Kwinana Industrial Area’s (KIA) economic contribution to the Western Australian economy since its establishment in 1955.

The initial catalyst for the development of industrial activity in the KIA was facilitated by the state government, who sought to secure the establishment of an oil refinery by BP Australia at Cockburn Sound. This was supported by the ratification of a State Agreement, and led to significant further investment into heavy industrial activity and resource chemical processing.

Following its establishment, the KIA continued to attract investment from major companies, including Cockburn Cement, Alcoa and CSBP, amongst others. Today, a significant amount of industrial activities exist at Kwinana which contribute to our mining, construction and agriculture industries.

Kwinana accommodates the Southern Hemisphere’s largest grain export terminal; exports 3% of world demand for alumina; supplies 18% of drinking water for Perth and Peel residents; houses the Southern Hemisphere’s largest sulphuric acid storage facility; supplies almost 780,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to the WA mining industry; provides fertilisers for Western Australian agriculture developed to suit our harsh soil profile; and will potentially become the world’s largest lithium hydroxide producer.

These operations are able to benefit from locating in Kwinana through a phenomenon known as industrial symbiosis. The agglomeration of industries at Kwinana can offer savings on transport and logistics, shared intelligence and increased access to appropriately skilled personnel. Industrial symbiosis is specifically an exchange of material or energy between firms, of which Kwinana has been identified to facilitate 158 exchanges in a 2013 study. The KIA is often held up as one of the most advanced industrial areas globally in terms of its ability to facilitate a competitive advantage for industries choosing to locate there. 

In order to ensure these industries continue to benefit the Western Australian economy by locating at Kwinana, there are a number of future threats and opportunities to be addressed.

  • The future of our import and export facilities have been the topic of recent debate and discussion, with the State Government’s announcement of the Westport Taskforce.
  • Industries identified an increased demand for water and energy to be a potentially limiting factor in the future of their operations.
  • Finalising the boundaries of the Kwinana Industrial Buffer Zone is crucial to ensure certainty for current and future industry, who are required to invest a significant amount of capital when deciding to establish activities in any industrial precinct.
  • The governance structure of the KIA could be improved through consolidation of the KIA under one decision-making body.
  • An ageing workforce presents an opportunity for industry to work with the local community in addressing issues of youth unemployment that are prevalent in the City of Kwinana. 

Ultimately, Kwinana was established during a critical time for Western Australia and has resulted in a significant amount of additional economic activity throughout the state, as detailed in the full report. 

Other articles from Insight, May 2018 (view email newsletter):