Whyalla is one of South Australia's most important cities. Mount Gambier and Whyalla are our two major regional centres.
Whyalla has a proud history. It was founded by BHP in 1901 and was originally named Hummock Hill. It began as a port for the shipment of iron ore.
During the Second World War, the town built many ships for the Royal Australian Navy. In the 1950s and 1960s, the first steelworks were built. In fact, for a time Whyalla had the largest shipyards in the entire country.
However, in the last several decades it has struggled to maintain the population it once had in the 1970s. The shipyards closed and for a long period the steel and iron ore businesses were in decline.
It is a town with great potential. Whyalla has all the ingredients for prosperity. It has great people who want to work, it has the equipment, such as the port, and is blessed with minerals in the ground waiting to be mined.
It is therefore fabulous news that in December last year we heard from the Premier and Mr Sanjeev Gupta that significant new investment is coming to Whyalla.
Sanjeev Gupta and his company GFG Alliance have grand plans for Whyalla. As a Whyalla man, I am very excited about this.
The company wishes to upgrade the existing steelworks. It will make the works capable of annual exports of 1.8 million tonnes of steel. The contracts recently signed are worth more than $600 million.
As well as the upgrade, a further expansion of the steelworks is being planned. This expansion down the line could make Whyalla the home of the largest steel plant in the developed world, producing 10 million tonnes of steel a year.
This project, of course, has the complete support of the South Australian government. The Premier has announced that $50 million will be put aside to support the sustainability of the steelworks.
This will make Whyalla one of the great centres of industry, as it once was during the war. As it stands, the Chinese company China Metallurgical Group Corporation will be contracted to build the facility.
As with all investment at this scale, it is not only the steel industry but those who work in the mill who will receive the benefits. The expanded steelworks will need workers, technicians and many staff.
The wealth invested will flow over into the town and throughout South Australia. The< shops and cafes in Whyalla will see more business and many more people will come to live in Whyalla—and why wouldn't you?
Whyalla is a sensational city with wide streets and easy access to the beach. It is only fitting that its economy matches its potential. With these developments, it is likely that Whyalla's population will grow. It is predicted it could reach 80,000 people in the years ahead.
In addition to the steel plant to be built, the City of Whyalla, under the leadership of Mayor Clare McLaughlin, is welcoming private investment to build a large hotel estimated to be worth $45 million, a $145 million horticultural facility and a $6 million organic recycling business. I would like to give a shout out to a great South Australian, Peter Wadewitz, who is behind the organic recycling business.
The Premier announced that, in support of these new developments, the state government will provide a new $100 million secondary school on Nicholson Avenue.
There may be some who have had doubts about this new development in Whyalla. However, there are reasons to be confident in the future of the town. Mr Gupta has proven himself to be a successful businessman, a man who does what he says.
In 2013, he bought the company Mir Steel in the United Kingdom. The company was the owner of a steel mill in Newport in Wales. Many thought the steel mill had seen the last of its good use and was going to be shut down for good.
However, the mill remains open today and many of the employees were kept on. The workers were treated with respect and care. In the interim period of the mill, before it reopened, the employees were paid one-half of their wages and could take up other work to supplement their income and help to pay bills. Mr Gupta achieved similar results with steel plants in Yorkshire and Scotland.
The growth and opportunities for Whyalla and its people that this development will bring is something for which we should all be grateful. It is a tribute to the people of Whyalla over these many years who have kept the town alive. As someone who was born and raised in Whyalla, this new-found optimism is incredibly exciting. The people of Whyalla deserve it. I wish Mr Gupta and his team every possible success.