The Federal Government should look at existing studies, not spend $200 million to investigate whether northern rivers can support new dams, as flagged in the Northern Australia white paper, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.

A previous Federal Government Northern Australian Land and Water Taskforce, which relied on extensive CSIRO research, found that “Contrary to popular belief, water resources in the north are neither unlimited, nor wasted. Equally, the potential for northern Australia to become a ‘food bowl’ is not supported by evidence.” (2009)

“The Government should not spend $200 million to hear again that the north’s long dry season, poor soils and uncertain water availability make it unsuitable for industrial agriculture,” said ACF’s Northern Australia Program Officer Andrew Picone.

“ACF is concerned the White Paper’s emphasis on 20th Century-style irrigated agriculture could see the north of the country repeating the mistakes of south, where over-extraction of water from the Murray-Darling river system is the subject of a $13 billion taxpayer-funded restoration plan.

“ACF is also worried the proposed $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility could facilitate the mining industry’s Galilee Basin coal fantasies, making the fund effectively a Dirty Energy Finance Corporation.

“The priority should be to protect and build on the north’s strengths – its superb natural and cultural values – not repeat the same industrial mistakes of southern Australia.

“Healthy landscapes underpin tourism, which is one of the most valuable and employment-rich sectors in northern Australia.

“Keeping our national landscapes, such as the Kimberley, Kakadu and Cape York, in good health must surely be a high priority for any government seeking to invest in an economically resilient and sustainable future for the north,” he said.

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Journalists with enquiries may contact Josh Meadows on 0439 342 992. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email [email protected]