Article – Western Australia's Ord River irrigators tell Prime Minister they need less talk and more development

26 August 2015
Tom Edwards
ABC Rural

Farmers in an irrigated agriculture zone in Western Australia’s remote East Kimberley say they want vital development to progress more quickly.

Tony Abbott met with growers at a farm near Kununurra during his first ever visit to the town.

He told journalists it was necessary to break the “dam phobia” which had “afflicted our country for far too long”.

“One of the things that we’re very keen to do is to bring this forward as quickly as possible and that’s why there’s $5 million in the (northern Australia) White Paper for the feasibility work to be done on Ord Stage 3,” Mr Abbott said.

“Plainly, there’s the usual environmental and other issues that need to be worked through.

“But what you’ve seen from this Government in the last week or so is an absolute determination to try to speed up these processes, an absolute determination not to let, amongst other things, green vigilantism stand in the way of sensible developments.

“Development which has passed strict environmental standards must be allowed to go ahead.”

PHOTO: Melissa Price MP, Ord farmer Christian, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Ord farmer David Menzel at Bothkamp Farm in Kununurra. (Tom Edwards)

The Ord farmers who accompanied the Prime Minister on Sunday’s visit were encouraged by his message, but believe progress is overdue.

Two years have passed since the WA Government released a report recommending raising the height of the Lake Argyle Dam wall by four metres to increase capacity ten times.

Doing so is seen as necessary to meet the increased water needs of Ord Stage 3, which will expand the scheme into the Northern Territory.

Fritz Bolten who farms chia in the area, said action, not another feasibility study, was what was needed.

“One of the questions he (the Prime Minister) asked was what was holding us back and we quite quickly answered it’s red tape,” he said.

“I just really want to get the message across that we don’t actually need another feasibility study.

“And I’m not saying that what’s he’s just given money for is anything but positive, but let’s get on with it.

“We’ve got a tremendous amount of momentum, we’ve got the Chinese who have come here and really contributed to our community.

“They’ve come here with some real vision and man, they’re going to make a difference here, let’s run with it.

“It’s incredible, this phase we’re going through at the moment, it’s just what we need. It’s so good for the community.”

PHOTO: Ord farmer David Menzel tells Tony Abbott about some of the crops growing in the Ord River Irrigation Area of the East Kimberley. (Tom Edwards)

Owner of Barradale Farm and chairman of the Ord Irrigation Co-operative, David Menzel, said after “50 years of nothing happening in the Ord” the community was wary of “talk without action”.

“If we can’t get something happening now…the whole world is focussing on food security and Australia is a very good place to invest,” he said.

“That cycle will end…we need to make sure we’ve got the work in place so that when funders need to fund something we have an opportunity for them to invest.”

PHOTO: Tony Abbott packing pumpkins at a Kununurra farm, as backpackers and Melissa Price MP watch on. (Tom Edwards)

Courtesy of ABC Rural

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