TRADITIONAL Owners have thrown their support behind a dam that will remove the current stifle on agricultural growth in Lakeland, saying it would provide their people with a viable way to return home.
Speaking at the Western Cape Futures Symposium in Weipa, Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation CEO Brad Grogan said the proposed 205,000ML dam and the thousands of jobs it would create was a boon for his people.
“One of the most important reasons we’re supporting the scheme is because we see it as an opportunity to create viable employment opportunities for Yalanji people to return to country,” Mr Grogan said.
“We see this project as a way to achieve self-sufficiency for our people, while also preserving our cultural heritage.”
Mr Grogan said the Lakeland Irrigation Area Scheme was designed to minimise its impact on the environment, while creating thousands of construction jobs and up to 2300 ongoing employment opportunities once constructed.
“The project aims to provide water to farmers in the Lakeland area allowing them to grow much-needed crops for the Australian consumer while also protecting the natural resources which are integral to our culture and way of life,” he said.
Cook Shire mayor Peter Scott stood side-by-side with Mr Grogan in Weipa and said Traditional Owner support was vital for the project to go ahead.
“This story is about collaboration to get a very important project up, and we hope, across the line,” Cr Scott said.
“This is a $2 billion project we’re talking about but if Brad and his mob say they don’t want it, it’s not going to happen.”
Cr Scott said the proposed dam would allow further agricultural expansion at Lakeland, with the potential for the town to grow bigger than Cooktown.
“There are fantastic benefits for the whole regional community,” he said.
“We’re looking at a town the size of Cooktown or bigger at Lakeland with all the associated hospitals, schools and services; this is the opportunity we’ve got going forward with this one and with the support of Western Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, it’s looking really good.”
A federal and state-funded draft detailed business case has been completed, with the final report to be released soon.
The project is being led by Regional Development Australia Tropical North, with SMEC appointed as principal project managers.