Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 29, 2022


Struan Research Centre

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (15:34): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Minister for Primary Industries regarding the Struan Research Centre.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: On 6 November, a fire went through the office and laboratories of the Struan Research Centre. According to media reports, thankfully no-one was injured and no major research work has been lost, but the damage is estimated to be worth approximately $5 million. Given the important role that research and development plays in the future of agriculture and primary industries more broadly, can the minister give a commitment that the research centre will be rebuilt in a timely fashion, and will the minister consider increasing the investment, if needed, to ensure that the new facility is fit for purpose into the future?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:35): I thank the honourable member for her question. It certainly was very distressing when we heard the news about the fire at the Struan Research Centre. I spoke with staff who were there. We arranged a teams meeting, I think it was later that same week, because I was concerned about how they were reacting. I wanted to ensure that they knew that they had the support of the department and that they could access support such as the Employee Assistance Program and so on.

I was very pleased to be able to have that interaction with them and also get more information about what had occurred, how they were working under their alternative arrangements—for example, being relocated into the historical building—and various other operational matters. I'm also glad to be able to say that the chief executive of my department also visited Struan recently in order to not only have a look at the site and what had occurred there but also to provide that reassurance to staff.

It is accurate in the honourable member's question that there hasn't been widespread loss of research, which is certainly very positive. Most of the research is digitised and therefore that reduces and mitigates the risk of loss. Work is continuing at the moment, including with the insurance companies with whom we are insured, to see what the level of damage is in a financial sense. There have been some estimates, as the honourable member mentioned, but work with the insurance company or the insurer—I'm not across the details of who that is or how that is arranged—but in terms of the loss from the assessors and so on, it is currently being worked through.

Once that is clearer then we will be able to make the next plans, but I am very confident that that will be rebuilt at Struan. It is a very important facility and it also has a lot of local support. It has been there operating research since—I think it's around about 40 years, so either late seventies or early eighties, and is an important centre for research. We know that we have a number of very important projects as well as a demonstration farm there. I look forward to seeing the progress and plans for the rebuild into the future.