The Mighty Fitzroy
The Fitzroy River is WA’s largest river, stretching over 700km from the deserts of the East Kimberley to the coast at King Sound.
The river has been recognized with National Heritage Listing for its outstanding ecological and cultural values. It is the world’s last stronghold for the critically endangered freshwater sawfish, a species that has survived since the time of the dinosaurs. During the flood, the river is a major input of clean, fresh water, to the Kimberly Coast, the world’s last pristine tropical coastline.
The cultural values of the river are also unparalleled. It is heritage listed for the outstanding example of the Rainbow Serpent Traditional across multiple language groups, and the river catchment hosts some of the oldest archaeological sites in the world; including stone circles, rock art and artifacts.
Life on the Fitzroy River is unpredictable. When it rains, floods bring wetlands to life and restore the River. Between floods the River often stops flowing and animals hang on in permanent pools fed by underground water. In some years there are big floods, in other years there is almost no rain.
All river species rely on the permanent pools as well as the floods. Species such as Barramundi and Cherabin are subsistence foods for local people, and an essential part of the classic recreational fishing experience.
PROTECTING THE FITZROY RIVER
The Fitzroy is the lifeblood of the Kimberley, but new proposals for dams and huge irrigation projects threaten the health and flow of the river. At the election the Government committed to protect the Fitzroy.
In August 2018, the Federal National Party released a plan for new dams in Northern Australia that laid out a proposal for Murray-Darling style industrial agriculture alongside the river.
These plans would fundamentally transform the Fitzroy River, destroy its Indigenous and ecological National Heritage values, and potentially doom the freshwater sawfish to extinction. Many other species, like quolls, northern river shark and the purple crowned fairy wren would also lose a crucial stronghold.