The Martuwarra is our vital water system and is National heritage listed for its Indigenous cultural values. The Fitzroy River is Western Australia’s longest listed Aboriginal Heritage site and there are numerous listed sites along the river and on the floodplains. Despite these layers of heritage recognition, the WA Government’s Discussion Paper proposes to allocate vast amounts of ground water and surface water to encourage agricultural corporations to establish a new irrigation industry in the Fitzroy Catchment.
Aboriginal people have not consented to this large-scale irrigation extraction process and oppose development of the Fitzroy River and its floodplain. The ripple effects of taking water would be devastating for the heritage sites and values that both National and state legislation are supposed to be protecting.
Instead of the proposed methodology of using water allocations to manage the river, I would like to see the Martuwarra Fitzroy River protected. The Discussion Paper fails to provide a mechanism for adequately protecting the National Heritage listed cultural and natural values of the Martuwarra Fitzroy River. It also fails to provide Native Title holders with the full and engaged consultation, consent, and ongoing role in management that they have numerously requested.
Traditional Owners have native title rights all along the river and have requested the WA Government commit to resourcing further discussion through the Kimberley Land Council and the native title groups. These discussions must include all traditional owners and native title holders with an interest in the river and its catchments. The Martuwarra is one living system; what happens in one part of the river, affects the whole river and therefore all voices must be considered.