A plan to create a massive new industrial agriculture operation in the proposed Fitzroy National Park has been out for public comment. The proposal would extract 50 billion litres from the river within the National Park area and involve clearing of over 8000 hectares of land. Approving proposals like this in advance of creating the promised management plan would undermine the ability to deliver on the landmark election commitment to protect the Fitzroy River.
UPDATE: the comment period has now closed but you can sign the petition to protect the Fitzroy and the Buccaneer Archipelago.
At the election, the WA Government promised to protect the river and create the new Fitzroy River National Park. This proposal from a NSW company challenges both of those commitments. Instead of protecting the river, it promises to bring all the social, economic and environmental problems of the Murray-Darling catchment to the Kimberley. We believe that this project will never be environmentally acceptable.
The proposal includes a massive 40 billion litre dam to store water for irrigated crops; including cotton. This dam alone holds 6.5 times the amount of water Broome uses in a whole year. The company also proposes to take up to 4 times their annual entitlement during a big wet season. This would seriously disrupt the life-giving floods that keep the Fitzroy River and the Kimberley coast healthy.
The company wants to take 50 billion litres of surface water a year from the Margaret River, a tributary of the Fitzroy. Water would be taken through a canal to massive dams built near the river. In some low rainfall years, 50 billion litres is one third of the flow in the Fitzroy. The available data is limited, but the company did not even mention it in their proposal. There are also no allocation plans for this area and we don't know the environmental water requirements for the river to stay healthy.
Life in the Fitzroy River is boom and bust. When it rains, the river is recharged, but in the long dry season the river stops flowing and life hangs on in permanent pools of water. Taking water on this scale, along with agricultural pollution, could damage these refuge pools.
The Fitzroy River is the lifeblood of the Kimberley. Will we protect the river and the sustainable industries that already operate there, or give it over to industrial development, dams and pollution?