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Shire of Murray CEO Dean Unsworth

The Shire of Murray in the Peel region is bounded by the shores of Herron Point in the west, and the adventure town of Dwellingup in the east. The equestrian playgrounds of North Dandalup and Coolup are to the north and south respectively.

About an hour south of Perth, the Shire is home to residential estates ranging from urban hubs and canal living, to rural residential developments.

Timber logging and agriculture were the traditional enterprises of the district, however in recent decades bauxite mining and an extensive equine and tourism industry has emerged, with an expanding business sector. Local Matters talks to Shire CEO Dean Unsworth to find out more about Murray.

You have been Shire CEO for 13 years. How has the Shire of Murray changed in that time?

The Shire has shifted its focus to areas that were once seen as ‘non-core’, including economic development and place-making, and the community has become increasingly involved in the decision making process, helping to pave the way for Murray’s future.

Murray’s strong heritage has been embraced and maximised to strengthen the district’s tourism offering – leveraging our proximity to Perth while maintaining our country charm.

With the opening of the state’s first purpose-built trails centre in Dwellingup along with significant trails development, visitor numbers have notably increased particularly in Dwellingup, Pinjarra and Lane Poole Reserve, many of which may not have previously come to our Shire. 

What major projects do you have underway at the Shire?

Murray’s strong heritage is guiding district developments particularly in the central town of Pinjarra, the central hub of the Shire and one of the oldest towns in WA.

The current distinctive look, colour and architecture of Pinjarra is being replicated in the town’s revitalisation. This is taking shape through a few projects including the Exchange Hotel Redevelopment.

Detailed planning, feasibility investigations and design are underway to transform the hotel, a key site within the main street of Pinjarra, into a multi-faceted and integrated economic and social precinct. This would comprise a microbrewery/tavern and producers and makers co-operative space, with a pop-up alfresco.

I believe that the site has the potential to become an iconic destination for locally sourced foods, goods, and services, offering an experience not available anywhere else in the Peel or South West regions.

Murray’s economy continues to diversify through significant programs and projects including the Western Australian Food Innovation Precinct, which will be delivered by the Shire and constructed at Peel Business Park in Nambeelup. The precinct is a first of its kind in WA for growers and producers to network, undertake commercial research and development, prototype and market test food products derived from WA produce. It has the potential to boost competitivity in national and international markets.

Dwellingup has played a key part in WA’s trails development, delivering the state’s first purpose-built trails centre.

Dwellingup’s transformation will continue over the next few years especially through projects such as the Dwellingup Adventure Trails project being delivered by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions in partnership with the Shire.

Through the project there will be around 60km of dedicated, connected single-track mountain bike trails in and around Dwellingup as well as other improvements to Lane Poole Reserve’s four-wheel drive, drive, walk and paddle trails.

What issues and opportunities are on the horizon for the Shire?

The Murray-Waroona sub-region is running out of water to supply industry including Alcoa, agriculture and for waterway health. Thousands of future jobs will not be realised and traditional sources of supply – dam and ground water, are at capacity.

New sustainable, water sources are needed to enable the sub-region’s growth and new technologies are required to improve efficiencies of use.

There is also a need to redirect heavy haulage vehicles around the town centre of Pinjarra to enable the town centre’s revitalisation.

The project, jointly funded by State and Federal Governments, is currently being progressed by Main Roads WA. It will reduce congestion and improve safety in the centre of town and enable the development of an activated town centre.

The Dwellingup Gap Project is part of the Shire and local community’s vision of positioning Dwellingup as a national trails town and one of WA’s premier trails destinations.

$2.7 million is needed to assist in the delivery of the ‘missing pieces' of critical infrastructure required to establish Dwellingup as a recognised trails town, including constructing, upgrading and connecting 36km of mountain bike and walk trails; downhill trail development for national competitions; constructing a Captain Fawcett 4WD Track to Lane Poole Reserve return loop and additional canoe launch points to increase canoe trail options from 8km to 12km.

The development of the Bibbulman Track Walk Trail Loop will create a three-day, two-night trail loop commencing and concluding in Dwellingup.

How would you like to see the Shire positioned in 10 or 15 years’ time?

To have a broader economic base that isn’t as reliant on Alcoa as it has been in the past. Unemployment in the Peel region is always high in tough economic times, so we need to insulate ourselves against the ‘boom and bust’ economic cycle.

Through agricultural research, product development and world-class tourism product, we have belief that this will be achieved.

Is there anything you would like to add about the Shire?

Within an hour of Perth, our district offers day-trippers a variety of quality experiences. Our community is very welcoming and proud to show off our re-invented towns, particularly Dwellingup and Pinjarra. If you haven’t paid a visit in the last five years, I encourage you to make the trip to see the positive changes and the vitality that has grown for yourself.


Page reviewed 06 May 2022