The story of government involvement in developing the Ord region is a long one, and the $500 million Ord-East Kimberley Development Plan is the latest chapter. It combines economic development, capital works and social infrastructure, co-funded by the State and Commonwealth through Royalties for Regions and stimulus funding. It involved three main state government agencies, the Commonwealth, local government, Aboriginal community organisations and private companies. There was also a clear desire to get on with it and not miss this unanticipated opportunity to progress development in the Ord.
In that kind of environment, getting planning right, aligning governance to risks, and being clear about what benefits were to be achieved was not going to be easy, and was not entirely successful. Social and irrigation infrastructure have been delivered, and are being used, but it took longer and the cost to the State has been higher than planned. The economic and social impact has so far fallen short of targets. There is the prospect of further development in the future, but how and when that might be achieved remains uncertain, and the measures are not in place to track the benefits.
Government has a legitimate role in economic development. The nature and extent of that will vary from project to project and place to place. What does not change is the responsibility for agencies to get the planning right, achieve time and cost targets, and to be able to track and demonstrate the benefits that have been delivered.