The State Government has agreed to a three-year extension to a Memorandum of Understanding with Western Agricultural Industries (WAI) so feasibility studies can continue into developing a sustainable irrigation industry for the West Kimberley.
Resources Development Minister Colin Barnett said today the extension followed a formal submission by the project proponent WAI for more time to complete its feasibility studies.
Mr Barnett said during the negotiation process for a revised Memorandum of Understanding, the company outlined modified works programs which allowed for greater public consultation.
“WAI will now base its proposed $200 million irrigation project on groundwater supplies, and not the damming of the Fitzroy River as originally contemplated,” he said.
“This is only one aspect of the project which has been revised to acknowledge the concerns put forward by the Broome community.
“Another aspect of the new feasibility studies will be to prove-up sustainable groundwater supplies south of Broome.
“WAI will also conduct pre-feasibility studies into the use of run-of-river surface water, but this will not involve the future damming of any part of the Fitzroy River.”
Primary Industry Minister and Joint Chairman of the Ord Stage II Committee Monty House said that in the last five years, WAI had spent more than $5 million on preliminary research into the feasibility of irrigated agriculture.
He said it had gained a strong understanding of the agronomics for cotton production in the West Kimberley area south of Broome.
It proposed spending a minimum of another $5 million on these feasibility studies in the next three years.
“The West Kimberley irrigation project is based on 20,000ha of irrigated land spread across a 200km strip of land to the south of Broome,” Mr House said.
“It will require about 160 gigalitres of water a year from the La Grange groundwater sub-basin.
“The project will generate exports to the value of about $80 million a year and employment for 300 on-farm and support industries.
“It is clearly a very significant project for the Broome region.”
Mr Barnett said the project would only proceed if, in the opinion of the Minister for the Environment, WAI complied with the normal environmental process, including an appropriate level of public consultation.
Diana Callander - Minister Barnett’s office 9222 9699
Julie Cole - Minister House’s office 9481 2044