Caution over more northern dams

October 23, 2003 - Plans to investigate the use of water from the Fitzroy River for agricultural purposes are being meet with caution by Greens (WA) MLC Robin Chapple.

'Plans to dam the river in the 1990s meet a strong community backlash, resulting in the cancellation of the project. I am concerned that unless the Federal and State studies into irrigation are driven by local needs and concerns, we will simply be repeating history,' said Mr Chapple.

'The desire to access the water available in these rivers for the development of broadacre monocultures has been fraught with environmental and heritage concerns in the past. I am worried that the agenda is simply exploitative.'

'We do welcome the $500,000 that the Federal government is putting forward to assess the health and environmental flows of Australia's Northern, so long as these studies are more than ways to figure out how much water can be removed from these ecosystems.'

The $800,000 research program using federal funding and being undertaken by the CSIRO is looking at the use of water being kept in dams during the dry season. The State Government announced a parallel study today, stage II of which would assess the potential of northern rivers for irrigated agriculture.

'I hope both State and Federal Governments have learned the lessons of the recent past: you can't dump unwanted developments on communities that are used to a high degree of independence. The north of Australia has some of the last intact tropical ecosystems left on earth, and are of enormous value as they are to their traditional custodians and the broader community,' Mr Chapple said.

'While I welcome the potential for the research to improve our knowledge of the region, I put the Government on notice to proceed with caution.'

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