Private developers are to conduct a feasibility study for a commercial port to be built at Exmouth.
Deputy Premier Ian Taylor said today that, if viable, the project would be designed to meet the needs of the fishing industry, the offshore oil and gas industry and the growing numbers of charter boat operators.
Mr Taylor said agreement had been reached between the State Government and Leighton Contractors Pty Ltd for the company to investigate the project at its own cost and put forward proposals within 12 months.
"Whether or not Leighton finds the project economic, full details of the feasibility study will be made available to the Government," Mr Taylor said.
"In return, the Government has agreed not to sell or lease any Crown land designated for the original marina/resort development until the study is complete.
"At the same time, the Government will assist the investigation by providing non-confidential data and information."
Mr Taylor said the arrangement would progress potential development of a marina/port facility at Exmouth without committing the State to any financial obligations to any project.
"What it does do is give a private developer the chance to examine the viability of a major project secure in the knowledge that the land will be available for negotiation at the end of the process," he said.
"A development of this kind is too important to Exmouth to risk it not being progressed because of uncertainty in this area."
Mr Taylor said only when Leighton presented the State Government with a development proposal based on the feasibility study would the Government decide how the project should proceed.
He said Leighton's involvement had stemmed directly from an invitation by the Department of Marine and Harbours in mid-1991 seeking expressions of interest for the development in Exmouth of a port, marina and resort facility.
"Leighton was the only company to respond to the invitation and maintain interest in all three aspects of the facility," Mr Taylor said.
"But later, after the company had examined the concept in depth, it refined its ideas to a port development only."
Mr Taylor said the State Government also believed there was merit in separating commercial facilities from any future resort complex.