A lucrative community investment trust funded by WA’s booming mining sector is being set up by the state government to help pay for critical infrastructure in remote communities, as well as important ‘legacy’ projects .

An initial amount of $750 million has been committed to the fund, which is touted as a means for the state to achieve permanent and tangible results for the benefit of the community through the ongoing resource boom.

Miners contributing to the fund include Rio Tinto and BHP ($250m each), Hancock Prospecting ($100m), Woodside ($50m), Chevron ($50m) and Mineral Resources ($50m). dollars).

It is hoped that the fund will eventually bring in well over a billion dollars, and that other miners will be invited to contribute.

Mark ‘a good time’

Premier Mark McGowan said the initiative would help pay for “big heritage projects” and was a way for mining companies to give back to the community, “given the great times we’ve had over the past few years. and the very solid results they have achieved.”

WA Premier Mark McGowan is aiming to secure further donations for the fund.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Projects to be funded include an Aboriginal Cultural Center for the Perth CBD, renovations to the Perth Concert Hall and improvements to the Perth Zoo.

The $400million Indigenous Cultural Centre, to be built on the banks of the Swan River or Derbarl Yerrigan in Perth’s CBD, is due to be completed by 2028 and has already attracted $50million in government funding from the state and $52 million from the federal government.

“So it’s a way for Western Australia to receive support from the state that provides the huge majority of revenue to these companies for some of these important legacy projects,” Mr McGowan said.

A city skyline at dawn
Several projects in Perth city center are set to benefit from the fund.(ABC News: Gian De Poloni)

Remote community upgrades

Rio Tinto chief executive Simon Trott said the fund was “a great example of industry and government working together to advance projects that will touch the lives of generations of West Australians”.

Mr Trott said the funding was for specific projects “that align with our goals” and was not an ongoing or open-ended commitment.

Local woman in Wingellina on the main street of the remote native community in WA.
Remote Indigenous communities like Wingella are among those likely to benefit from the new fund.(ABC Goldfields: Tom Joyner)

Mr McGowan said mining companies could come up with projects they want to see funded, especially in the remote areas in which they operate.

He said a governance board with an independent chair would be appointed to oversee the fund, comprising representatives from government and the Chamber of Minerals and Industry.

McGowan said the initiative would be particularly important for remote Indigenous communities, which were no longer receiving federal government funding, and there was a significant backlog of work to be done, including new housing.

It comes as a September audit of WA’s finances revealed an additional operating surplus of $344 million, taking the total surplus to $6 billion for the last financial year, an Australian record.

GST Sharing Risk

Opposition Leader Mia Davies welcomed the money from the mining company, but questioned why the government needed it, given the size of the surplus.

“It’s unusual in a state that has a $6 billion surplus for the premier to look to these mining companies and expect nothing in return,” she said.

“Maybe it gives the government the opportunity to use the $6 billion it has in the Prime Minister’s back pocket to spend on the basics it is failing on, like health, housing, social security initiatives. the cost of living for Western Australians.”

Mia Davies looks up while talking
Mia Davies says the government needs to focus on tackling basic cost of living pressures for West Australians.(ABC News: Andrew O’Connor)

She said the government appeared to be “looking for a good news headline” to divert attention from its mishandling of other issues.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Steve Thomas said he was concerned about the GST implications of the project if mining companies ended up paying less corporate tax, which could reduce the share from WA of GST revenue in the future.

“There is a cost to pay for this in the future, and that cost is the risk for GST over time,” he said.

He was also concerned about the availability of workers to build the new infrastructure, given the widespread labor shortage.