I have been pleased to see the progress that has been made in establishing new conservation areas in recent years, such as the Great Kimberley Marine Park. The next big challenges are the protection of the Fitzroy River and the Buccaneer Archipelago.
I’m writing to you about the Fitzroy River. The river is a haven for many species, and remarkably, it is also the world’s last great stronghold for the critically endangered Freshwater Sawfish. Sawfish have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, but now they are at risk of extinction.
The Fitzroy River is the last place on earth where sawfish can be found in true abundance. Each wet season a new generation of baby sawfish head from the ocean to the river. They have been found up to 400 km away from the Kimberley coast!
However, emerging proposals for dams and huge irrigation projects are a major new threat to the river. Dams and irrigation threaten the pools of water that remain after the river stops flowing in the dry season – and where the sawfish and all river life hang on until the rains return.
The Fitzroy is also of great cultural significance, and has been National Heritage Listed for its cultural values. Fitzroy River Traditional Owners expressed their concern for the river and desire to be involved in its protection in the 2016 Fitzroy River Declaration.
Recently, a new proposal for a 50 billion litre dam at Gogo Station was referred to the EPA. Alarmingly, this is only one of a number of dams and huge irrigation projects that are being talked about for the Fitzroy River.
I support the McGowan Government’s election commitment to protect the Fitzroy River with a new National Park and Catchment Management plan. However, it is crucial that the catchment management plan provides real protection for the river and species like sawfish. It must stop projects like the proposed Gogo station dam through an enforceable buffer zone for the whole river.
This could be the last chance for the Fitzroy River and its endangered sawfish. What happens next will decide if the river is protected, or if the water given away. The economic future for the river catchment must be underpinned by proper protection of the river.
As my local MP, I ask you to join me in ensuring that the Fitzroy River, its outstanding cultural values, and critically endangered sawfish are properly protected for future generations. Will you support a scientifically robust buffer zone to protect the sensitive river pools and wetlands from dams, irrigation and other threats?