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Martuwarra Fitzroy River campaign finds new place at WA Maritime Museum

Tom Zaunmayr -

The boss of the Kimberley Land Council has urged the public to keep up the pressure on the WA Government to prevent the Martuwarra (Fitzroy River) suffering the same fate as the Murray-Darling River.

KLC chief executive Tyronne Garstone's call comes as the WA Government leaves the door open to push release of the Martuwarra water allocation plan which could see up to 300bn litres of water from the river made available to industry each year back to next year.

Speaking at the launch of a new Martuwarra exhibit at Walyalup's (Fremantle) Maritime Museum, Mr Garstone said the campaign had reached a critical point.

"We are constantly trying to ensure the messaging and momentum we have created around trying to protect the river is being seen," he said.

"The State Government has been taking stock of (more than) 43,000 submissions and the report is coming out.

"We dont want to sit idle; we have momentum now, we have a lot of public support... in trying to protect the Fitzroy River, so we need to get on the front foot."

Mr Garstone told the crowd gathered at the exhibition opening exisiting legislation did not afford Traditional Owners the right to protect the river their way.

He was one of several Kimberley speakers at the event among Martuwarra Fitzroy River Council chairwoman Anne Poelina, Gooniyandi man Mervyn Street and young artist Hozaus Claire.

Mr Claire said protecting Martuwarra was critical for access to fresh water.

"I remember running around in school in town and our only excuse to get into public places was we drinking water, but now every public place, everwhere the taps' taken off," he said.

"Access to freshwater is hard enough - the only access we have is on Country.

"Fresh water is important for every living being beyond its boundaries."

Hozaus Claire and Mervyn Street.

Those seeking to take water from the Martuwarra have spruiked the potential economic windfall they say could lead to jobs and improved infrastructure in towns such as Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing, where economic harship is rife.

Gogo Station development manager Phillip Hams in June said such developments would provide purpose for young people and lessen reliance on jobseeker payments.

A Department of Water and Environmental Regulation spokesman would not confirm whether the plan would still be unveiled in 2022.

"The water allocation plan will be built on scientific evidence and guided by community and cultural values to provide a strong and transparent foundation for water resource management of the catchment," the spokesman said.

"The McGowan Government is committed to development of a management plan for the Fitzroy catchment and no dams on the Fitzroy River and tributaries.

"These commitments are aimed at delivering outcomes for the Fitzroy River and its people by both protecting the river's heritage-listed cultural and environmental values while still allowing opportunities for sustainable economic development at a small scale."

The Martuwarra Fitzroy River â€" Lifeblood of the Kimberley exhibition will be on display at the WA Maritime Museum until January 29, 2023.


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