The potential to develop northern Australia for large scale intensive agricultural production has been on the drawing board for a long time now.
The recent problems experienced in the south, mainly with drought and water security, has some big investors looking to the north to diversify their operations.
Northern Australia is really the last frontier when it comes to opening up big areas of land for dryland and irrigated agriculture.
The common theme through a recent agricultural forum was how red tape and government regulations were standing in the way of allowing development to occur.
At present, there are a lot of hurdles to jump that did not exist when most other cropping districts were developed, and some of these are for good reasons.
The big ones are water access and allocations, land tenure, vegetation management, and services like the lack of three phase power and safe and reliable double lane highways.
Nation-building projects have to be long term investments and the role of a government should be to facilitate the process to determine its worthiness of development and if it can give an acceptable return on the investment over time.
After saying all that, maybe not every community and definitely not every existing landholder wants to go down the intensive agricultural pathway.
This is understandable because their lives will be impacted in ways that they may not wish it to be.
Everyone fears change, and in this case it may be justified because the change to existing societies and business operations would be profound if a major greenfield project was to happen within these districts.
I guess it is up to every individual to determine for themselves if they support such developments or not and if they are comfortable to accept the risk involved for the potential gain.
This of course does not only mean current landholders but every community member as everyone will be affected both negatively and positively.
So we should all be thinking and asking questions like:
- What will be the economic benefit to our district, state and nation?
- How will it affect the environment?
- Do we have the resources to support the project?
- Where will the farming knowledge come from?
- How much will our population grow?
- Will the crime rate rise?
- Will we get better infrastructure like high schools, aged care facilities, a town doctor?
- What effect will it have on other existing industries?
There are many more questions and it is only when we can arm ourselves with honest and knowledgeable answers to those questions that we can individually choose to support or not to support such development.
- Greg Ryan, Georgetown cattleman