PERTH, AAP – Western Australia’s Mid West shapes as a renewable energy hub as the state government continues to ponder legislating a zero-emission target.

Thursday’s state budget will include a new $50 million fund to help grow a local renewable hydrogen production industry in WA.

It will support feasibility studies and other projects aimed at attracting further investment for the burgeoning sector.

A further $11.5 million has been set aside for the Oakajee industrial area near Geraldton in the state’s Mid West, which has been earmarked as an ideal site to produce green hydrogen because of its wind and solar conditions.

Premier Mark McGowan on Tuesday said hydrogen offered “incredible potential” for the state.

“Countries like Korea, Japan, China are going to need renewable energy as a carbon-free fuel source into the future and Western Australia is ideally placed to provide it,” he told reporters.

WA has an aspiration to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 but there is currently no legislative requirement on big polluters to show how they will offset the environmental impact of their major projects.

Mr McGowan said his government was still considering whether to incorporate the target into legislation, amid warnings a dramatic reduction in carbon pollution is needed over the next decade.

“There’s a lot of complexity around that, so we’ll obviously consult widely on that before we make a final decision,” he said.

The budget will also include funding for a new Aboriginal cultural heritage framework as the government prepares to introduce long-awaited draft legislation.

Traditional owners remain divided about the proposed overhaul, which follows Rio Tinto’s destruction of the sacred Juukan Gorge rock shelters last year.

It will remove the contentious Section 18 process that allowed the 46,000-year-old Juukan caves to be blown up but will still give the government the final say over damage to sites.

Indigenous elders from across WA will meet with MPs this week to express concerns about the bill, which they claim is being developed without their input.

Mr McGowan remained hopeful the legislation would be introduced this year.

“There’s been a massive amount of consultation,” he said.

“I couldn’t tell you the number of forums, meetings, briefings and the like to try and make the system modern and enhance the rights of Aboriginal people to have involvement in the system.

“Whilst it’s very complex, at the end of the day that’s what it will do.”