Potential hidden environmental cost of Government’s irrigation vision

Thursday 31 July 2014           

Greens member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Robin Chapple MLC said he tentatively supports the government’s ‘Irrigation Vision’ for the West Kimberley but would like to see more research into the environmental consequences of the scheme.

Stage one of the program will see more than $15 million invested in irrigation infrastructure east of Derby including almost $5 million at Mowanjum Station to grow irrigated fodder crops in support of the community’s pastoral aspirations.

But Mr Chapple said he was concerned high-intensity irrigation projects would have significant and detrimental flow-on effects for the Kimberley’s water cycle.

“The claim that wet season floods are ‘wasted’ is a total myth,” he said.

“Pumping water from the river valley floodplains may endanger the deep refuge pools that rely on floodplain groundwater to survive the dry season.

“These pools are critical for species such as Barramundi, Black Bream and freshwater prawns, allowing them to complete their life cycles and harbour juveniles.

“Harvesting what appears to be excess water in the Kimberley for agricultural production could ultimately be a trade-off with the health of the Kimberley’s river and groundwater systems.”

These views have been echoed in a new Kimberley based study by the Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge research hub (TRaCK).

Mr Chapple said he would like to see more in-depth research done into the environmental impact of the proposed irrigation schemes but is not entirely opposed to the idea.

“This project could be great for supporting the independence of Mowanjum Aboriginal Corporation and other remote communities and traditional land-owners,” he said.

“But, any financial benefit to these communities must be matched by a commitment to protect the significant biodiversity and astounding natural beauty of their lands.”

For more information please contact Robin Chapple on 0409 379 263 or 9486 8255.

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