Welcome Minister McGurk and Minister Punch
Congratulations on your recent appointment to your new portfolio and to your role in the Fitzroy River Ministerial Council.
The National Heritage Listed Martuwarra Fitzroy River and its floodplains are of outstanding environmental and cultural value. It is an inseparable and fundamental part of culture, Country and identity for Kimberley Traditional Owners and holds a special place for the community, who rely on it for their livelihoods, fishing, tourism, and recreation.
In early January, the Fitzroy Valley and surrounding communities experienced the worst floods in WA history, causing widespread damage to homes, infrastructure, and the community, and leaving thousands displaced from their homes and Country.
Following this catastrophic flood event, it is more important than ever to listen to local communities about their needs and what they want for the future of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River. The floods have also raised important questions over the dangers of building irrigation infrastructure and barriers on the floodplains, that would likely have been heavily damaged and could have caused wider flooding and exacerbated the impacts.
In your 2017 election commitment, the McGowan Government promised to protect the Martuwarra Fitzroy River. Now, in the rebuilding phase of the Fitzroy Valley, is the chance to plan for a sustainable future for the Martuwarra and act to protect its outstanding National Heritage values.
The Kimberley community, particularly Traditional Owner groups, have never consented to water extraction from the Martuwarra and have repeatedly urged government to invest in sustainable development that will create culturally appropriate jobs for Aboriginal people on Country and protect the river, and floodplains.
In 2021 more than 43,000 Australians, including 11,000 Western Australians and 1100 people from the Kimberley, wrote submissions to the WA Government in response to the Draft Fitzroy River Water Discussion Paper, calling for all plans to take water from the Martuwarra for irrigation to be stopped and for the river to be protected.
The immediate priority is the flood clean up and the welfare of people in the community. However, as planning begins for rebuilding, I urge you to listen to Traditional Owners and the local community. I urge you to hear their vision for the Fitzroy Valley and plans for potential industries that benefit a sustainable economy and local people.
I am urging you Minister, as a member of the Fitzroy River Ministerial Council, to protect the Martuwarra Fitzroy River and reject any plans for taking water from the river or its floodplains for irrigated agriculture.