License for 40 gigalitres of free irrigation water under fire

Source: Fresh Plaza

Plans to transform an outback cattle station into one of Australia’s biggest horticulture developments seem to be under fire right now. The owners have asked the Northern Territory government to grant a license to allow 40 gigalitres to be pumped from groundwater bores. After the government had confirmed the irrigation water would be made available to Fortune Agribusiness for free, experts said the water would be priced as much as $100 million in other jurisdictions.

The Central Land Council this week applied for a review “of the unprecedented decision to gift a private company 40,000 megaliters of finite water reserves each year for three decades to grow fruit and vegetables in the desert, largely for export”.

Fortune Agribusiness chairman Peter Wood said the company respected the CLC’s decision to seek a review in accordance with the NT’s Water Act. The proposal still needs formal approval from the EPA.

Fortune Agribusiness wants to build a 3500-hectare irrigated horticulture project at Singleton Station, about 400 km north of Alice Springs. The company was controversially allowed the biggest water license ever granted in the Territory so it can proceed with the $150 million project. The farm will cultivate permanent crops such as citrus, grapes, avocados, onions, rockmelons and other crops.

The government decision meant groundwater would be released to Fortune in four stages over the next decade, peaking at 40 gigalitres through about 100 bores.


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