NEW DAMS can create almost 15,000 regional jobs and $4.85 billion in production in northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, based on the work of Austalia’s science agency, CSIRO.
The Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment, completed by the CSIRO, found 7250 jobs could be created in the Mitchell catchment in Queensland, 2845 jobs in the Darwin catchment in the NT, and 4700 jobs in the Fitzroy catchment in WA.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud said he was keen to see this type of infrastructure development create the opportunity for indigenous jobs in agriculture.
“This is really exciting news for agriculture and potentially for our indigenous communities in these areas,” Mr Littleproud said.
“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.”
The CSIRO report confirmed that in the Mitchell region, about 7250 jobs could be created and $1.5 billion a year could be added to the region through four dams releasing 2800 gigalitres a year in 85 percent of years. This could support 140,000 hectares of year-round irrigation, growing two crops a year.
In the Fitzroy catchment, it would be possible to create 4700 jobs through $750 million of farm production created by pumping 1700gl from the Fitzroy and Margaret Rivers to grow 1600,000 ha of once-a-year crop – CSIRO names cotton as an option – although the reality was likely to be less than that given cultural, environmental and legislative factors.
In the Darwin catchment, CSIRO reported about 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 (343gl capacity) and the upper Adelaide River (298gl).
These dams could release 436gl at the dam wall in 85 percent of years, growing 40,000ha of mangoes or 60,000ha of trickle-irrigation vegetables. Another 345 jobs and $320 million could come from using 35gl of groundwater to grow an extra 7800 ha of trickle irrigation vegetable production.
“Dams and other water projects can bring thousands of jobs to areas where employment is hard to find. Dams grow food, jobs, exports and wealth,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Projects like these can add $4.85 billion to Australia’s farm production and help get us to the NFF’s (National Farmers Federation) ambitious goal of $100 billion of gross farm production by 2030,” he said.
“In the modern age, we can do this in an environmentally and socially responsible way.
“In my home state of Queensland, some 7250 jobs could be created in the Mitchell catchment. It would transform the region. The Pinnacles dam site on the Mitchell and the Rookwood dam site on the Walsh could provide 65 percent of the water CSIRO says could be harvested from the Mitchell catchment.
“The Pinnacles site alone could grow 70,000 ha of spray-irrigated sugarcane and mungbeans.
“Adding 2500 jobs would be huge for the Darwin region. Darwin is ideally placed to export fresh produce to Asia and with dams, could take full advantage of this,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Adding 4700 jobs to the Fitzroy catchment in northern WA would kick-start wealth and jobs. With vision we can do something great here.
“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.”