600GL earmarked for north

Article by Jenne Brammer, The Western Australian, March 4th

Ambitious plans to create WA’s next agricultural hub in the Kimberley have moved closer to reality after the State Government revealed it could make available up to 600 gigalitres a year of surface water from the Fitzroy River catchment.
The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has told stakeholders that options ranging from zero up to 600GL were being considered as part of its water allocation plan for the region. The water allocation plan is part of the Government’s election commitments for the region, which include creating the Fitzroy River National Park, and not allowing the Fitzroy or its tributaries to be dammed.
“We are seeking stakeholder input on these options and no decision has been made,” a DWER spokesman said.
Stakeholders include pastoralists, traditional owners and environmental groups.
The 600GL would be less than the 1700GL suggested in a CSIRO study released last year, but pastoralists are confident this would provide a significant start towards development in the region.
It is also a fraction of the average annual flow of the Fitzroy, of 9728GL.
It is understood Gina Rinehart is working on a big investment plan that is contingent on getting access to less than 5 per cent of a 600GL allocation.
Mrs Rinehart’s Hancock pastoral portfolio includes the Liveringa and Nerrima stations, which cover 470,000ha in the Fitzroy Valley, and the 400,000ha Fossil Downs station near Fitzroy Crossing.
Another pastoral station in the area, the 700,000ha Gogo station, owned by Malcolm Harris and family, wants to use 50GL a year to create a mosaic of irrigated crops in a proposal now with the Environmental Protection Authority.
Separately, it is understood constructive talks are under way with native title holders, namely the Bunuba, Gooniyandi and Yurriyangem Taam people, over the creation of a national park.
The CSIRO Northern Australia Water Resources Assessment, released in August, found investing in water infrastructure could unlock 160,000ha of agricultural land along the Fitzroy River.
The initiative could deliver more than 5000 local jobs supporting an industry worth more than $1.1 billion a year.