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Kimberley Diocese warns against irrigation invasion

The Justice, Ecology and Peace Office (JEP) of the Western Australian Diocese of Broome has expressed "grave reservations" about plans to open up new sections of Australia's "pristine" north to irrigators from the south.

Amidst continuing debate over irrigation and its impact on the Murray-Darling Basin, the Federal Government believes expansion in the north could be achieved without the environmental problems suffered in the south if there is sound science.

The Government has pledged $800,000 to map the "sustainable development of irrigation in the north, there will be $500,000 to assess the present health of northern rivers.

But JEP coodrinator Br Shane Wood says those conducting research the claims the irrigation could be sustainable are those who have most to gain economically from the project.

"The premises upon which research [recommending irrigation in the north-west] is based are at best questionable," he said. "One would have to question the wisdom of attempting to interfere with one of the last wild rivers in Australia (the Fitzroy) in such a significant way.

"When significant amounts of money are put into research, there is always the fear that the outcomes will suit the interests of the investors. Is it just coincidence that the principals of the cotton trial in the Kimberley are seeking ways to provide a significant and reliable water supply to extend their coverage?

"One wonders how much these proponents and/or their peak representative industry bodies have invested in the newly announced research?

"We have been through the exercise of defeating attempts to build a major dam on the Fitzroy in the recent past and it is reassuring to know that both Local and Federal Government spokespersons have ruled this option out under the current proposal," he said.

"At the same time, it is likely that there will be similar undesirable consequences from irrigation in the North as there has been in places like the Murray-Darling Basin. Water-hungry industries are not what is needed in this part of the country."

Shifting the irrigators from plundered South to pristine North (Diocese of Broome)

Irrigation study to look north (Sydney Morning Herald 21/10/03)
Fitzroy River irrigation plan (The West Autralian 20/10/03)
Irrigatinon Association of Australia
National Water Initiative 2003 (PolMin Background Paper)

28 Oct 2003