The CSIRO investigated the potential on northern Australia’s water resources to increase regional development.
The assessment was released on Thursday 29 August and details plans to dramatically increase the food and fibre production capacity of northern Australia with the construction of three new dams.
The Mitchell River in far north Queensland, Western Australia’s Fitzroy River and the Greater Darwin area in the Northern Territory were identified as the best sites for potential irrigated agricultural development.
According to Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud said, the new dams can create almost 15,000 regional jobs and $4.85 billion in production in northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
“This is really exciting news for agriculture and potentially for our indigenous communities in these areas.
“This could create permanent jobs and a secure economic future in Indigenous communities in northern Australia. Our Indigenous people have a deep understanding of the land and the water and this fits well with sustainable agriculture,” Minister Littleproud said.
“The natural assets of the north, the tropical climate and abundance of water and of course, its proximity to Asia, logically says the region has significant unrealised potential,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President Fiona Simson said.
The assessment found the three study areas support diverse land uses and contain largely free-flowing rivers that currently sustain areas of high biodiversity, cultural and aquatic ecological value, and support valuable industries.
“The Coalition has shown vision by commissioning CSIRO to do this work and now we have a road map to food, jobs, exports and wealth for these regions,” Minister Littleproud said.
Ms Simson said bold and innovative ideas such as the CSIRO assessment, which disrupt the status quo, was exactly what needed to be considered in order to achieve NFF’s vision for agriculture to be a $100 billion industry by 2030.
“A business-as-usual trajectory would see agriculture achieve about $84 billion by 2030. To reach $100 billion in farm gate output, we’ll need to disrupt the status quo and that means exploring new production areas,” she said at an address to the National Press Club.
In the Mitchell, some 7250 jobs could be created and $1.5 billion a year could be added to the region through four dams.
In the Darwin catchment, some 2500 jobs and $2.3 billion for the region could be created through two potential instream surface water storages at Mount Bennett on the Finniss River and the upper Adelaide River.
In the Fitzroy catchment, it would be possible to create 4700 jobs through $750 million of farm production.