Plans have been announced, as part of an election promise, to build a new national park on the Fitzroy River. The promise was made by the Western Australian Labor Government, with strong backing from traditional owners and environmentalists, as reported by abc.net.au.
The announcement of the plans have been met with some opposition from local farmers in the Kimberley cattle industry. One such organisation to voice their concern, was the Pastoralists and Graziers Association(PGA). President Tony Seabrook said some members were worried about what this park will mean for neighbouring areas.
"The government needs to be able to look after the estate it currently controls in a far better fashion before they take more," Mr Seabrook said.
"This [national park] would be very detrimental for the properties which adjoin the river...There are certainly some sites on that river of great significance, but the park is too big, too over-reaching and probably ungovernable.", he added.
Gogo Station is one cattle station to have vocalised their concerns over the plans. The station, run by the Harris family since 1989, has been growing irrigated sorghum for their livestock and are in the process of seeking expansion approval. They say they aim to develop up to 10,000 hectares of fodder crops in the area, using a mix of centre pivots and flood irrigation. This will be done from water harvested from a Blue Bush Creek, a tributary of the Margaret River.
"What we're doing here is working…and it's so obvious that more would be better," said Phil Harris, Gogo development manager.
"The proposed National Park has implications, and we're in discussion with a number of the government people. I think the Government realises the need to generate some economic activity in this valley to give opportunities to people, especially Aboriginal people.”, he added.
"So nothing is in concrete yet and we're certainly out there, along with others, putting a view, and hopefully commonsense will prevail." Harris concluded.
Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting were another to raise concerns over the parks development. She and her companies had announced their aim to utilise more water from Fitzroy Valley, a plan which may well be hampered by the parks building.
"The [WA] Government only allows one water licence to access water from the Fitzroy River for Liveringa [Station] in the Kimberley, and guess how much water the Government permits to be taken? Six gigalitres," said Gina.
"This leaves 99.9991 per cent of the water to run out uselessly into the Indian Ocean.How can we advance the north if one of its biggest industries is prevented from accessing a vital asset for growth — water.”, she continued.
She followed on by saying should they be allowed to use this wasted water, then they would be able to increase their livestock numbers, which would then be of benefit to other related industries.
The WA government have since committed to the park and say they will deliver on their promise. It was confirmed recently that the park would go from the Geikie Gorge National Park up along the Fitzroy river due North and along the Margaret river to the east.
The Environment Minister in Western Australia, Stephen Dawson, explained that he expected community consultations to start early next year, adding that key information would be provided in the coming months to key stakeholders. He did agree with some of the concerns raised by the agricultural community in the area, but says the park will ensure the area would remain a world class tourist destination.
"What we need to do now is determine what the park will look like and that has to take place in consultation," Dawson said.
"As the PGA has pointed out, some of its members have leases in that area and we'd need to talk to pastoral lease holders and traditional owner groups, because some of the land belongs to them...So we'll talk to everybody who's involved over the next few months and work out exactly what the map looks like going forward.", he stated.
Mr Dawson said he supported a broad range of industry in the Kimberley, including irrigation in the valley.
"In terms of whether the Fitzroy River needs to be dammed to deliver on some of those plans, we're very strong that the Fitzroy River should not be dammed, that was a clear commitment from us," he said.
Dawson said they are happy to work with all the industries involved in the region, to ensure they can all coexist in the area. He said, contrary to news reports, that he was unaware of any private firms looking to build a dam on the valley.