Senator Matt Canavan has welcomed today’s release of research results he says add further impetus to the campaign for expanded irrigation in northern Australia, particularly Central Queensland.
A joint report by CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) indicated potentially strong economic returns for investment in water infrastructure, he said.
“This report examines six specific areas across northern Australia, including three in Queensland: the Darling Downs – Maranoa region, the Dawson region in Central Queensland and the Flinders – Gilbert catchments in North West Queensland.
“The report took the example of a relatively small area in CQ but still shows that using just 40 gigalitres (GL) of water a year – in that case, treated water as a by-product of coal seam gas – could irrigate 8,000 ha of wheat, cotton and mixed crops,” he said. “With a once-off investment in a $30 million oilseed crushing facility, it could increase production returns by $25 to $30 million a year.
“There is potential for far higher production increases in CQ. A dam on the Connors River, in the north of the Fitzroy Basin, would store 375 GL, Nathan Dam in the south of the Fitzroy Basin almost 900 GL, and sites at Eden Bann and Rookwood on the Fitzroy 200 GL. That is a total of 1,475 GL, over 36 times more than the volume of water considered in the report example.”
Senator Canavan said the report highlighted that a range of infrastructure and supply chain investments are needed to realise the potential of the regions.
“A key finding of the report is that irrigated agriculture in northern Australia has the potential to add considerable value to regional economies,” he said.
“The report does caution that securing water for irrigated agriculture cannot guarantee positive financial returns but notes this is less of an issue where markets and processing facilities are closer to potential production sites, such as in the Queensland regions examined.”
In recent months, Senator Canavan has inspected sites for dams and other prospective infrastructure projects in Central Queensland, the Granite Belt and Southern Downs, and north-west Queensland from Townsville to Mt Isa. This week, he is visiting primary producers and other business operators to discuss the needs of the region from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Atherton Tableland.
Note: The report is “Northern Australia Food & Fibre Supply Chains Study – Synthesis Report”. It can be read at: http://www.regional.gov.au/regional/ona/files/NAFoodFibreSupplyChainsStudySynthesisReport_FINAL_141022.pdf