Kununurra, meaning ‘big water’ in the local Indigenous language, is the eastern gateway to the ancient landscape that is the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The town itself is relatively young, built in the early 1960s to serve the Ord River Irrigation Project, however, Aboriginal people have traversed the landscape for centuries. Kununurra was also the base for the flming of Baz Luhrmann’s epic Australia . A cast and crew of more than 400 based themselves in town, travelling by 4WD each day through red earth country and boab tree forests to reach the set at Carlton Hill Station, a 50-minute drive out of Kununurra.
The Main Pump Station
The Main Pump Station is an iconic structure built on Lake Kununurra and was once an integral part of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme, although the pumps have been effectively decomissioned since 1971. The Ord River Irrigation Scheme is now an agricultural area comprising 15 315 Hectares of land under irrigation, with a further 9015 hectares planned to be developed and in production around 2012.
In conjunction with the irrigation project the town of Kununurra was being established to service the agricultural area, with housing, offices, water supply, power plant and airstrip.
In 1971, the Argyle Dam [Lake Argyle] was completed up-stream of Lake Kununurra and contains sufficient reserves to maintain the water level in Lake Kununurra at a constant level in order to gravity feed the M1 channel all year round. The power supply to the Pump Station was disconnected, but the pump station was maintained as an emergency backup and was not fully decommissioned by the Water Corporation until 2004. The Main Pump Station was included on the register of the Heritage Council of Western Australia in 2007.
Kununurra locals, Thomas & Dominique Breig had long had a vision to develop the site into a restaurant over the water because they recognised the enormous potential that the structure of the Main Pump Station represented. The tenure and planning constraints on the site were complex and it took many years for the Breig's to finally secure a lease over the site in 2007.
In September 2008, the 'Pumphouse Restaurant' was opened for business with much fanfare and excitement among the residents of Kununurra.
The conversion of the Main Pump Station into the Pumphouse Restaurant results in a unique experience over the water, watching the teeming fish life below whilst seated among the iconic structure and equipment of the original pump station - engaging the past and the present of Kununurra.
Register of Heritage places [assessment documentation] Main Pump Station - Heritage council of WA