Water Journal : Current May 2016
45 www.awa.asn.au Irrigating Northern Australia In a submission to the Federal Government s Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia, the organisation said plans to develop the north must take into account the perspectives of Indigenous Australians. "The success of northern Australia development will ultimately depend on increased Aboriginal participation in the economy," Managing Director Jan Ferguson co-wrote. SCALE ECONOMIES Integrated Food and Energy Development (IFED) chairman Keith De Lacy believes large-scale projects, not humble family farms, hold the key to unlocking the north s potential. In what would be Australia s largest irrigated agriculture project, IFED has proposed a $2 billion vertically- integrated farm over 65,000 hectares of irrigated cropping in Queensland s Gilbert river system. "My very strong view now is that we ve got to make another step if we re going to develop agriculture in isolated regions," De Lacy said. "The old model won t work -- which is the government coming in, building a dam and asking who wants to use it." It s an opinion that not everyone shares. National Irrigators Council CEO Tom Chesson points out that some of the south s most successful irrigated farms are run by families, and there s no reason that can t be the case up north. What irrigators need is government assistance in reining in electricity prices, Chesson said, because sites as far south as soil-rich Bundaberg, let alone up north, are struggling from prices that have doubled in recent years. "That s the big issue for us," he said. IFED is well aware of the difficulties rising power costs can create, which is why its cogeneration plant will aim to produce enough biomass to run its processing. It will then aim to recoup costs by feeding surplus to the grid. "It will effectively be free for us. So that underwrites the economies of all our processing," De Lacy said. Yet IFED isn t the only company eyeing off a slice of the north. Further west on the Gulf of Carpentaria, one of Australia s largest beef companies Stanbroke is pushing for a large- scale project on the Flinders River. In WA, Chinese company Kimberley Agricultural Investment s 13,400ha Ord Stage 2 irrigation expansion project is underway on the Goomig and Knox plains, representing one of the biggest agricultural developments in Australia s north in over 40 years. Queensland Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Leanne Donaldson said the state is seeing expansion in areas like Lakeland on the Cape, as banana growers take risk mitigation measures in response to severe Tropical Cyclones Larry and Yasi. Donaldson also listed "traditional strongholds" Bowen, Gumlu, Mackay, Burdekin and the Atherton Tablelands as the north s most promising areas for irrigation projects. In WA, the Federal Government s White Paper highlights the Fitzroy catchment and the expansion of the IN WHAT WOULD BE AUSTRALIA'S LARGEST IRRIGATED AGRICULTURE PROJECT, IFED HAS PROPOSED A $2 BILLION VERTICALLY-INTEGRATED FARM OVER 65,000 HECTARES OF IRRIGATED CROPPING IN QUEENSLAND'S GILBERT RIVER SYSTEM.
Current Feb 2016
Current August 2016