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Politics and weather delay world’s biggest prawn farm

Exceptionally wet conditions in the north and a change of Northern Territory Government have meant plans to start building the developed world’s biggest prawn farm have been delayed by a year.

The final investment decision for Project Sea Dragon by ASX-listed Seafarms Group was due in March, but the group said in its half-yearly report this was likely to be delayed by up to three months.

That in turn means works scheduled to start this year would not be able to start until the dry season of 2018.

Seafarms Group director Harley Whitcombe said there were a number of factors, mainly outside the company’s influence and control, that had affected the timing of the final investment decision.

Road upgrade boosts prawn farm hopes.

A top-decile wet season at Legune Station, which will eventually house up to 10,000ha of grow-out ponds before prawns are transferred to Kununurra for processing, had hampered on-ground access.

Seafarms Group also cited an unfinalised Indigenous Land Use Agreement and Project Development Agreement with the NT Government, and an unexpected requirement for a Bynoe Harbour environmental impact statement, as reasons for the delay in the final investment decision.

“In the north, if you lose three months, that can lead to a delay of nine to 10 months in terms of starting work, because of when conditions are dry enough to access to the land,” Mr Whitcombe said.

He said that while major works requiring machinery such as road building and building ponds would now not start until 2018, he was hopeful some progress, such as mapping out roads, could happen later in 2017; the aim being to recoup some time.

Mr Whitcombe said he was confident the new WA Government would remain committed to the project, which included plans by the Barnett Government to seal the Moonamang Road, which joins Legune Station in the NT to Kununurra.

He said the company remained robust about Project Sea Dragon.

When all phases of building were complete it would produce 150,000 tonnes of black tiger prawns a year.

Backed by one of WA’s richest men, Ian Trahar, who is worth about $180 million, Project Sea Dragon would generate around $3 billion in annual exports.

For the six months to December 31, Seafarms reported a loss of $10.86 million.

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