The National Heritage-listed Martuwarra Fitzroy River in the Kimberley is a step closer to being protected from Murray–Darling style irrigation. A policy position released by the Cook Government this week states clearly that no new extraction of surface water will be allowed.
“We welcome this historic announcement by the Cook Government, which supports what the community has been calling for over several decades: protection of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River from massive water extraction, and dams for agribusiness to irrigate cotton and other broadacre crops,” said Environs Kimberley Director of Strategy Martin Pritchard.
The Fitzroy River catchment has the most intact tropical savannah in the world and the Martuwarra Fitzroy River has been recognized as the last stronghold for the critically endangered Freshwater Sawfish. It also supports a major Barramundi population as well as Freshwater Prawns and other important fish species. The cultural heritage values of the river have been recognized by the Commonwealth Government, which put the river on the National Heritage list in 2011.
Martuwarra Fitzroy River - Damian Kelly
Environs Kimberley was formed to protect the river and adjacent tropical savannah from large-scale cotton crops, and has worked in partnership with Aboriginal groups since 1996 to keep it running free.
“More than 43,000 people called for the Martuwarra Fitzroy River to be protected from industrial agriculture and big pumps. The health of the river system depends on uninterrupted flows. It’s great to see that the Cook Government recognizes this. We know that any water pumped out reduces Barramundi and critically endangered sawfish populations.”
“We are still concerned about groundwater extraction. 100 billion litres are mooted as being available, which would allow the irrigation of 10,000 hectares. That is an unacceptable scale of land-clearing in such an intact and biodiverse landscape.”
We are keen to see more detail on the policies, including those concerning heritage and cultural rights, and we’ll support Aboriginal groups to ensure they obtain all the rights due to them as First Nations.
Work already completed shows that other, more profitable and less damaging industries are possible in the Fitzroy Valley. Such industries should be encouraged and supported.
We know that there are limited opportunities for jobs in large-scale irrigation, which causes massive damage, including complete destruction of tropical savannah by bulldozing and burning to grow cotton.
“The new economy provides the potential for sustainable jobs, including conservation of the world-class landscapes, which Aboriginal rangers are successfully working on. Carbon abatement, cultural tourism, bush foods and renewable energy are all industries that can work in the Fitzroy Valley, and there’s a strong interest in developing them.”
“We need to get behind these new industries, which are more appropriate for the landscapes and culture of the Kimberley,” Mr Pritchard said.
Cook government condemned for opening up proposed Nature Reserve and Martuwarra Fitzroy River in the Kimberley for oil and gas
The Cook government is opening up spectacular parts of the Kimberley to the oil and gas industry at a time when the science says we have to reduce carbon emissions. See petroleum release announcement here.
“We’re calling on the Cook government to withdraw this petroleum release and not put places like the spectacular Edgar Ranges and Martuwarra Fitzroy River at risk from the oil and gas industry.” Said Environs Kimberley Director of Strategy Martin Pritchard.
Edgar Ranges Photo: Environs Kimberley
“It’s like the Premier Roger Cook and Minister for Mines Bill Johnston don’t accept the science of climate change because we know that to have a safe climate, the International Energy Agency is saying we can’t open new oil and gas.”
The petroleum release areas cover the spectacular Edgar Ranges which have been proposed as a Nature Reserve by the WA government since 1991. The Edgar Ranges are of very high conservation value and culturally important.
According to the WA Government –
The Edgar Range is biologically and culturally extremely significant, it has a spectacular landscape and for decades has been recommended for conservation as a Class A Nature Reserve.
It is significant habitat for many mammal, insect and plant species and is known for Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby, Greater Bilby and Forrest’s Mouse, and is the only location for the endangered Edgar Range
Pandanus (Pandanus spiralis var. flammeus)21. It is where Torresian (sub-humid Kimberley) and desert species mix.
One hundred and twenty-one species of birds have been recorded there, including three of special significance to conservation – Princess Parrot, Peregrine Falcon and Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo.
Source: Department of Conservation and Land Management (1991) Nature Conservation Reserves in the Kimberley
Martuwarra Fiztroy River Photo: Damian Kelly
The Martuwarra Fitzroy River is National Heritage listed and is a Registered Aboriginal Heritage site.
“If the Cook government won’t withdraw this petroleum acreage release then the oil and gas industry must take a responsible approach and not bid for these areas.”