Lakeland Irrigation Area Scheme

Benefits to the region include:

  • Access to a reliable and affordable water supply capable of supporting a majority of soils suitable to horticulture and broadacre cropping in the Lakeland Irrigation Area region.
  • Access to a reliable and affordable water supply capable of supporting a majority of soils suitable to horticulture and broadacre cropping in the Lakeland Irrigation Area region.
  • Increased volume of water available for agriculture
  • Ability to grow higher value and more diverse range crops in suitable areas
  • Improved confidence of irrigators to invest in long term business operations
  • Benefits to regional business activity and prosperity through increased agricultural activity

Overview

 The Lakeland Irrigation area was established over 70 years ago and boasts deep basalt soils growing a variety of crops. Water availability and security is the major inhibitor to the success and expansion of agriculture in the region. At present less than 2,000ha is being irrigated.

The Department of Resources has completed a comprehensive soil and crop analysis of the Lakeland basin as part of the strategic business case.  This report identifies numerous opportunities for diversity.

In 2017, Cape York Sustainable Futures (CYSF) received $825,000 (ex GST) to undertake the Lakeland Irrigation Area feasibility study to explore, identify and assess all aspects of expanding and improving agriculture in the LIA. The LIA feasibility study was part of the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund (NWIDF), an initiative of the Australian Government. CYSF engaged SMEC and the then Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME) to undertake a Land and Soil Assessment. Following the closure of CYSF in 2018, RDATN entered into an agreement to deliver the draft and final Strategic Business Case.

The report assessed four options, identifying the Palmer River as the most favourable site. The Palmer River flows west to the Mitchell catchment and into the Gulf of Carpentaria. It has been highly degraded by mining over the past century and will leave no impact on the Great Barrier Reef.

RDATN has worked with Federal and State Governments to progress the project further, receiving $10m in funding to undertake the detailed business case in May 2020.

SMEC has been appointed as the principal project manager and a Reference Group has been established to provide feedback to the detailed business case.  The study is investigating the viability of infrastructure as well as the economic viability of supplying water to the Lakeland farms. The current intent is to construct a dam up to 200,000ML with an annual offtake up to 80,000ML. A reference design will be included which defines the method of transfer of water from the dam by either surface pipes or a tunnel. An indicative distribution scheme will also be included.

There are presently over 6,000 ha under mostly dry cropping on freehold land in the Lakeland basin and no further tree clearing is required to achieve maximum utilisation of identified arable land. A total of 17,500 ha of irrigable land in the area with a further 39,000 ha of downstream grazing land.

Should the Detailed Business Case support the proposal, the project will provide both economic and social benefits to a sparsely populated are with potential for growth in population and services.

The detailed business case is due for draft presentation in May 2022 with the final report due in September 2022.