South West industry representatives have called for clear procurement targets before construction begins on the $852 million Bunbury Outer Ring Road after concerns were raised about the definition of 'local'.
The concerns were voiced during an employment forum for the project in Bunbury, led by project director Mark Hazebroek.
Apprentice and Traineeship Company chief executive officer Stan Liaros questioned Mains Roads' staff on what constituted local content and whether targets had been set, which were met with applause from the majority of the 100 attendees.
"I would like some assurances, could you identify what local means?," he said.
"Is it about organisations that have been here for a long time and have head offices here?
"Is it about organisations that have come across from the eastern states, set up an office here and are local for all intensive purposes and then skedaddle when the project is over?
"That is absolutely crucial. Local content is paramount.
"We talk about employment, but the challenge is putting some targets on that.
"If we don't have targets, if we don't actually commit and are able to measure against it, then it loses credibility.
"I believe that most people in this room would be very keen to work out what local means and how committed you are to looking at that."
Bunbury-Geographe Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Rob Skipsey echoed Mr Liaros' sentiments and insisted the region had the capacity to support the project.
Under the WA Jobs Act 2017, 'local industry' is defined as "suppliers of goods produced, or services provided, in WA, another state, a territory or New Zealand" - a definition consistent with the national procurement agreement.
Mr Hazebroek confirmed that, although a local target had been set for Aboriginal employment on the project, it was not as simple for general business and that the organisation needed to comply with the policy.
Instead, Mr Hazebroek suggested a working group be established to explore building in targets for local employment.
Following the meeting, a Main Roads spokesperson said maximising local business participation was a key objective for the project and, as a result of the feedback received at the local industry forum, it intended to establish a working group.
"We are implementing a number of strategies in the procurement process to give local businesses every opportunity to take part in the construction of Bunbury Outer Ring Road over the three-year construction period," the spokesperson said.
"This includes partnering with the South West Development Commission to hold industry briefings and develop a local capability register.
"Once a final contract is in place it will feature initiatives targeted to lower-level prequalified contractors.
"Other initiatives to encourage local content and increase capability will include discrete packages of work, fair risk allocation, reasonable payment terms and training targets.
"As an outcome of the local industry forum we intend to set up a working group to work with local businesses to determine if targets are required and if so, how they can be achieved within current government policy parameters.
"If targets are adopted, we will work with our successful alliance partner to ensure the targets set are suitable, realistic and achievable."
Forrest MP Nola Marino told the forum she wanted to see as much of the $680 million in federal government funding stay in the region as possible.