Water plan drives Cape’s sustainable future

Millions of megalitres of water in the state’s remote Cape York wilderness will be managed to preserve the delicate balance of economic growth and environmental protection.

Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the Cape York Water Plan was now in effect, setting aside water for Traditional Owners, for new and existing ventures, and to maintain flows in watercourses and waterholes.

“This plan will support job-creating economic development in the Far North – particularly for the traditional owners – as well as protecting the Cape’s relatively-untouched river systems,” he said.

“The plan is also significant because the Cape’s 15 river basins flow either into the Coral Sea adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef or the Gulf of Carpentaria.”

Member for Cook Cynthia Lui said the plan was a landmark for Queensland and for the Cape’s Traditional Owners.

“This is the first time Traditional Owners have had the opportunity to make decisions on how water is allocated and used on their country,” she said.

The new water resource plan manages water for more than 100,000 square kilometres of land from south of Cooktown in the east and Pormpuraaw in the west to the northern tip of Cape York. It is now one of 24 water resource plans managing sustainable water use across most of Queensland.

It will provide annually:

  • about 485,000 megalitres for Traditional Owners, to either use themselves or lease to third parties, like local farmers or businesses.
  • 31,000 megalitres of water for new ventures and jobs, including irrigated agriculture.
  • more than 100,000 megalitres for existing water entitlement holders.

More than 150 existing users will receive their final water entitlement offers over the next six weeks. The completion of the plan also means a moratorium on new entitlements has been lifted after three years of planning and consultation to develop the plan.

Dr Lynham said the water being made available only represented about 2.5 per cent of the total volume of water available in the area.

“It’s fundamental to sustainable water management to preserve water for the environment, and the Cape York plan will ensure environmental flows for this area’s watercourse and waterholes.”

“Queensland’s Cape York region is the closest Australia’s mainland gets to the Great Barrier Reef, which puts extra emphasis on getting this balance right.”

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