A four-year Department of Agriculture and Food research project, identifying suitable areas for irrigation development in La Grange, Western Australia, is almost complete.

The La Grange Agriculture Opportunities project began in 2012 and has found over 50,000ha of sites with shallow groundwater that is potentially suitable for irrigation development south of Broome.

This project has laid the foundation for the establishment and growth of new irrigated industries and development in the state’s north.

The department’s La Grange project manager Chris Ham said the project had provided the foundation to support sustainable agricultural development which would generate business growth and employment opportunities for northern communities.

“The project has demonstrated that land and water development can work side-by-side with natural resource and cultural management, Indigenous protected areas and the pastoral industry,” Mr Ham said.

“At the forums we will showcase the most suitable land for development, possible future scenarios based on the existing water allocation of 50GL, and base costs and market potential for future agriculture in the region.

“The mapping, in particular, will show soil types, depth to water, the locations of new monitoring bores, and wetlands, which are combined to identify prime locations for irrigation.

“This information has been provided directly to individual landowners in the region to consider, and as a result, several new projects are being developed.”

Mr Ham said the La Grange project had fostered strong relationships between key stakeholders including the traditional landowners from Yawuru, Nyangumarta and Karajarri country, pastoralists, horticulturalists and government agencies.

“Stakeholders have collaborated to develop a shared vision for the future of agricultural development within La Grange,” Mr Ham said.

“Many have told us they now know their neighbours much better than before.

“Two of the three traditional owner groups are now planning to include irrigated agriculture in their pastoral operations, and several other landowners are either expanding or submitting new proposals for development.”

Mr Ham said the project also included market analysis and economic research to provide guidance on development costs and potential new markets and supply chains.

The La Grange project is part of the Regional Economic Development Water Opportunities Project led by the Department of Agriculture and Food and made possible by Royalties for Regions.

The outcomes of the La Grange project will be used by the Water for Food project led by the Department of Water.

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