Dear Minister Kelly,
I am deeply concerned about plans for taking water from the National Heritage Listed Fitzroy River for irrigated agriculture. The sensitive environment of the river cannot handle the reduced water flows and increased pollution that irrigation would cause. Establishing a new irrigation industry on the Fitzroy River would lead to a Murray-Darling style disaster for communities, endangered wildlife and the National Heritage cultural values of the river.
My concerns were increased when I learned about the mass death of critically endangered sawfish on Gina Rinehart's Liveringa Station this December. Sawfish are critically endangered having disappeared from over 70% of their global range, and the Fitzroy River is their last stronghold and crucial for their survival. They are fully protected under a number of Australian and Western Australian laws.
Liveringa Station is the only station on the river where water is being taken for irrigation and the sawfish died upstream from this irrigation infrastructure. Scientists involved in the rescue noted that it was not clear why these sawfish has become trapped on the floodplain instead of migrating back to the river as the water receded for the dry season, and yet no investigation has been undertaken to understand why the sawfish were trapped and how this could be avoided in the future.
I was further shocked to discover that Government decided to withhold news of these deaths from the community, despite officials noting in the FOI documents that exposed the incident that it would be of global interest.
I call on you to investigate how these deaths happened and how further plans to modify the Fitzroy River for irrigation would impact on sawfish and other endangered species.
Sustainable economic development in the Fitzroy is important but it is outdated to think that such development must come at the expense of the environment. 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 and that such an approach would create more jobs than 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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