Article – Step up northern expansion

6 November 2014
Brad Thompson
The West Australian
The State Government is challenging Canberra to stop talking about developing northern Australia and start acting by releasing 10,000ha of land near Derby for irrigated agriculture.
It is part of a buffer zone around the Curtin air base, which covers 26,000ha with 1900ha fenced off for the RAAF airfield and other facilities.
Unlike other big parcels of land earmarked for irrigation in the Kimberley, the site is freehold and does not come with native title complications.
It was one of several major projects promoted by WA representatives in Darwin this week for a conference on developing northern Australia.
WA’s most ambitious plan is to increase the capacity of Lake Argyle by 10 times the volume of Sydney Harbour.
It is understood WA wants the Commonwealth to allocate about $10 million to prepare detailed engineering plans and costings for what some have hailed as a “great lake forward” for northern Australia.
The plan involves increasing Lake Argyle’s capacity from 10,670 gigalitres to 15,500gl to trigger agricultural development spanning 100,000ha across the WA-Northern Territory border.
Regional Development Minister Terry Redman spoke at the Northern Australia Food Futures Conference yesterday along with Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Redman said there were a number of options for making more water available for irrigated agriculture around Kununurra. The options included the plan for Lake Argyle but he said there had been no formal request for Commonwealth funds.
Under the plan, a 10m-high barrier wall would be built across Spillway Creek – one of four spillways leading off Lake Argyle – with the effect of lifting water levels across the vast water mass by about 4m. The State Government is working on a rough estimate of $80 million to carry out the work based on positive findings from a pre-feasibility study.
The Shire of Derby-West Kimberley is lobbying for the Curtin land release as part of its vision for a mini-Ord.
“It has been put up by the shire because it could be a huge step forward for the Kimberley,” shire president Elsia Archer said.
Mr Redman said: “We have plenty of other airports of strategic significance in the nation that don’t have buffers as big as this and therefore there is scope to make that land available for agriculture,” he said.
Courtesy of The West Australian