Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter, State Member for Mount Isa Rob Katter and State Member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth released the Katter's Australian Party (KAP) irrigation proposal for North Queensland earlier today in Townsville.
Bob Katter said the proposal essentially gives something to everyone under the KAP scheme.
He said he’s tired of successive Qld governments promising irrigation licences and infrastructure in the region, with little evidence of these promises reaching fruition.
“In the last 25 years the state governments have given out virtually no irrigation licences,” Bob Katter said.
“I’m not going to stand for this to continue to happen, so the KAP proposal should be considered a declaration of war,” he said.
He said the entire mid-west region, an area the size of Victoria that in the main requires no land clearing permits, has had only one irrigation development in the last 26 years.
“The last LNP Government issued irrigation licences that could be counted on the fingers of one hand and the bulk of those were to corporate or near-corporate operations.
“So the LNP Government gave no benefit to anyone, but indicated they were ‘looking into it’.
“Well every Government for the last 26 years has been ‘looking into it’ and according to their press releases they’ve burnt up over $103 million of public funds, for not the slightest scintilla of benefit.
“The Federal Government’s been there for two years and nothing – just talk.
“Yet every river and major creek north of the Flinders River runs near enough to every year.
“The KAP is very confident we can not only implement but also deliver our irrigation policy, largely because of the goodwill of Peter Wellington and Bill Gordon.”
Mr Katter outlined the KAP policy as follows:
1. Owner/Operator Landholders:
a. Every “Owner/Operator” landholder gets 200 ha of irrigation rights.
b. All “Blockies” get full irrigation rights for all of their less than 200 ha land.
c. *Clearly water rights can’t be given where the water doesn’t exist, so any allocation would be limited to existing resources.
2. Karumba Live Export Facilitation Program:
a. 30 x 1500 ha irrigation blocks in an arc stretching from Coleman, Mitchell, Staten and Gilbert Rivers, to facilitate development of the live cattle export port of Karumba.
3. Micro-Irrigation Town Schemes:
a. There are proposed schemes in Mareeba; Ravenshoe/Innot Hot Springs; Charters Towers; the Mid-West towns of Hughenden/Richmond/Julia Creek/Cloncurry; Normanton; Georgetown and Pomperau. There will be others.
b. Most will involve a very small diversion weir and a keyline type off-stream storage.
The rivers from which water could be sourced include the Coleman, Mitchell, Staten, Gilbert, Norman, Leichart, Albert and Nicholsen Rivers.
“The LNP approach was to give water rights to five or six big players, the corporates or near corporates, and everybody else getting nothing.
“We want to start with the people at the top of the river so the people who live there have their rights go first, not Sydney and Brisbane board rooms.
“The only two schemes being mentioned by the Federal Government are both “Corporate” schemes at the top of the river that quite frankly will benefit no one in the north
“We are not necessarily excluding those projects, but under the proposals put forward by the ALP and LNP they will end up with all of the water, that is not happening here.
“Under the KAP proposal, towns that are reeling if not dying from Government policies and non-policies will spark into life.
“Properly handled, towns like Richmond and Hughenden will double in size.”
“All we want is for government to get out the way and give landholders access to what is rightfully theirs”
Rob Katter said if the proposal isn’t given the go ahead the situation in the north-west is only going to get bleaker.
“This isn’t a radical proposal; providing these water packages to landholders will greatly help in revitalising cattle and farming operation in the region,” he said.
According to Bob Katter, the KAP irrigation proposal also has the potential to double if not triple the size of the cattle population in North Queensland.
“The official cattle numbers show that Cape York has 150,000 head of cattle, whilst Victoria, which is similar in area but with less than half the rainfall of Cape York, has 4.5 million head of cattle,” Bob Katter said.
“It has been impossible to maintain our cattle numbers in the Gulf, mid-west and greater Charters Towers areas because of our annual dry season and it will take us the best part of 10 years to build our numbers up again from this drought.
“Irrigation will enable us to significantly increase our herd numbers and to more importantly maintain our breeder numbers in bad years.
“KAP sees no reason why numbers in Cape York should not go to over two million and the rest of North Queensland numbers stabilise at five and a half million.”
He said the micro-schemes will facilitate quartering works through all of proposed centres.
“There will be capacity for half a dozen to a dozen quartering works and a finishing works at Charters Towers, possibly Mareeba too.”
He said if the proposal is given the go ahead he would expect work to commence on the micro-schemes at Charters Towers and Hughenden before Christmas.
Mr Katter said that the journey to Townsville or Darwin for most cattle being exported from Australia was incredibly inefficient and added great cost structures, yet a ready solution was there with the Karumba Port.
“These inefficiencies and the near monopoly control of these facilities have resulted in a $2 a kilogram difference for the last seven or eight years between what Jakarta is paying and what the cattlemen are receiving.
“The Karumba Corporation will be a community owned facility bringing $20 million a year into Normanton and Karumba.”