The Federal Government has provided $3.5 million to CSIRO to assess the possibility of the Northern Territory’s largest water catchment area to become a ‘Super Food Bowl’.
The CSIRO will commence a study to explore the potential for major investments in water infrastructure projects to boost agricultural production.
Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said the CSIRO-led assessment of the Territory’s Roper River catchment would add to the $15 million package of Northern Australia Water Resource Assessments, delivered by the Government as part of its White Paper for Developing Northern Australia.
“I am pleased to announce the Australian Government will provide CSIRO with $3.5 million to undertake a comprehensive assessment of the development potential of the water and soil resources of the Roper River Catchment in the NT,” Mr McCormack said.
The Roper catchment’s development potential is enhanced by its proximity to major routes, particularly Highway 1 which provides access to Darwin and key agricultural centres including Katherine which provide a pool of ready expertise to support the development of agriculture in the catchment.
The catchment features major ecological assets – some of which support the region’s important grazing, tourism and recreational and commercial fishing industries – and Indigenous land and conservation areas constituting around 30 per cent of its 81,000 square kilometres.
Mr McCormack said that supplying water to rural communities and economies was essential to expanding agricultural production and transform regions.
“CSIRO believes there is potentially more than one million hectares of land that could be suitable for irrigated cropping in the catchment area,” he said.
“I look forward to the CSIRO’s expert analysis in this regard, for the Roper River Catchment.”
Mr McCormack said in undertaking the independent assessment, CSIRO will closely engage with the NT Government, local communities such as indigenous landholders and agribusinesses.
He said this will help to deliver information that is readily accessible to governments and communities as a means of planning future developments.
Mr McCormack hinted at major implications for water infrastructure, should the report indicate the NT does indeed hold potential as a ‘super food bowl’.
“The Government looks forward to receiving an assessment that provides the detailed and scientifically robust data required to support public and private sector decisions to invest in major projects that will drive the economic growth of the region.”
The Federal Government was focused on building “water infrastructure of the 21st century,” he said.
“We are investing more than $3 billion to deliver greater water security for rural communities, grow jobs, underpin new and expanded agriculture and support regional economic growth and prosperity across Australia.”