The Gillard and Bligh Governments will invest $10 million in an historic plan that marks a significant step forward in realising the potential of new irrigated agriculture in the Flinders and Gilbert catchments in north Queensland.
Federal Minister for Regional Australia Simon Crean joined Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and Queensland Minister for Agriculture Tim Mulherin in Richmond to announce the North Queensland Irrigated Agriculture Strategy (NQIAS).
The $10 million investment includes:
Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan said the investment builds on the existing commitment of the Gillard Government to developing northern Australia.
"The Gillard Government committed $6 million to the Northern Australia Sustainable Futures (NASF) program at the 2010 election," Mr Swan said.
"This additional commitment from the Commonwealth will build on the work already underway and drive the development of agriculture, not only in north Queensland, but right across northern Australia," Swan said.
Ms Bligh said the private sector would be able to use the government-funded irrigation trials as a benchmark to support their own investment.
"The desire to expand agriculture has been around for over twelve years, and there has been tremendous work done into building a case for investment," Ms Bligh said.
"Funding a living, breathing on-farm trial will give investors confidence in the region to support long-term, sustainable agribusiness.
"It's a win-win-win for Queensland – sustainable land use, increased agricultural production and a jobs boost and economic activity in an important part of our state."
Mr Crean said the strategy opens the door for new diversified and sustainable agricultural development in the catchments and will provide investment confidence in new agricultural-based businesses.
"There is widespread support, from local communities and the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments to expand beef production and build processing capacity in this region," Mr Crean said.
"Today's Northern Australia Ministerial Forum (NAMF) in Mount Isa discussed the progress of the northern beef strategy, which is studying how to generate higher returns for producers and diversify the industry.
"One of the first tasks at the inaugural NAMF meeting in Darwin last year was to commission work looking at mosaic agriculture – this strategy is a further commitment to build on that decision.
"It is an important step in realising the potential of land and water resources and opening up the north to new opportunities in the beef industry and for agriculture more broadly, in Queensland and across northern Australia.
"We have established a Government framework and provided a commitment of new resources to this project, built on strong stakeholder engagement."
Mr Mulherin said the rivers of northern Queensland are iconic and have high environmental, cultural and economic values.
"As part of the water and soil assessments in the Flinders and Gilbert catchments, the CSIRO will specifically examine how much water can be taken, from where and when, as well as storage options," Mr Mulherin said.
"The strategy also addresses key 'next steps' that have been identified by the Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Development Zone (MITEZ) planning group to grow irrigated agriculture and to intensify beef production in north Queensland.
"All stakeholders, including MITEZ and the Flinders, Richmond, McKinlay and Etheridge Shire Councils have a vital role to play in the implementation of the strategy."
This strategy will be overseen by a board of management co-chaired by the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.
15 December 2011