Conservation groups have dismissed new calls for the large-scale expansion of industrial irrigated agriculture and dams in the Kimberley’s Fitzroy Valley, instead urging the WA Government to continue work towards its election commitment to protect the area and create a new Fitzroy River National Park.
The groups were responding to the release of a CSIRO report into the water and agricultural resources of Northern Australia by Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. The report included a focus on the Fitzroy River and highlighted the potential for a massive agricultural expansion.
The findings of this report contradict prior work by the CSIRO and the long-standing majority of view of Australia’s science community that has rejected dams and large-scale irrigation in the north.
The proposals in the report are also inconsistent with the McGowan Government's election promises to protect the Fitzroy, as well as the Fitzroy River Science Statement by over 100 respected scientists, and the Fitzroy River Declaration by the Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council of Traditional Owners.
CCWA Member Group Environs Kimberley, which was formed to protect the Fitzroy River from dams in 1996, has spoken out against the proposals.
Martin Pritchard, Director of Environs Kimberley said, "The National Heritage listed Fitzroy River is one of the last major rivers that hasn’t been damaged by large-scale water extraction for irrigation. It’s the last stronghold of the critically endangered Freshwater Sawfish and the best Barramundi fishing spot in WA."
The report claims that the Fitzroy could support 160,000 hectares of cropping and that 1170 billion litres of water is available.
"This is a Murray-Darling-type disaster that the CSIRO is pushing; we experienced a huge waste of taxpayer funds when the Camballin agricultural experiment on the Fitzroy River failed in the 1980s, and we need to learn from that," said Mr Pritchard.
Environs Kimberley is calling for development in the Fitzroy Valley that is compatible with a healthy river. Managing carbon in the landscape, bush products, eco and cultural tourism, renewable energy, and Indigenous Rangers are all part of the new economy for the region that need support, not damaging industrial agriculture, with its history of failure.