Dear Minister Kelly,
I am shocked to learn that forty-six critically endangered sawfish died last December on Liveringa Pastoral Station near the Fitzroy River, and now to hear that documents obtained under Freedom of Information show that Government officials chose not to make these deaths known to the public.
The Fitzroy River is recognised as the world's last remaining stronghold for freshwater sawfish, which are globally listed as Critically Endangered. Sawfish are also totally protected under both WA State and Federal legislation. The Fitzroy River nursery is likely to be crucial to the long term survival of the species.
The sawfish died after becoming trapped in drying out pools on the Blina floodplain on Liveringa Station. Blina floodplain is connected to the Fitzroy River through Snake Creek, a tributary that has been modified for access roads and to allow pumping of between 1 and 2 billion litres of water for irrigation. This is the only water that is currently allowed to be taken from the river. An incident report on the sawfish death event highlights that it is not clear why the sawfish became trapped on the floodplain.
An independent investigation is needed to provide transparency on why the sawfish became trapped on the floodplain, on the implications of modifying and extracting water from Snake Creek for sawfish, and on the Government decision not to make these deaths public.
The investigation is more urgent than ever with the current debate on the future of the Fitzroy River. Liveringa Station owner Gina Rinehart has called for some 300 billion litres of water from the river to be taken for irrigation. This would be 150-300 times more water than is currently taken from the Fitzroy River at Snake Creek.
The Fitzroy River is National Heritage Listed for its outstanding cultural and environmental values. A recent report by the University of South Australia showed that substantial economic development and job creation including niche agriculture is possible whilst also protecting the river from the taking of water for irrigation. The river is an outstanding national asset, we can’t afford to get this wrong. I would appreciate you letting me know what your plans are on this matter.
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