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Fresh report outlays economic benefits of protecting the Fitzroy River

Giovanni Torre -

A new report has revealed tourism spending could increase by up to $43 million in the Fitzroy Valley if the region's natural and cultural values are protected.

The report, Assessing Tourism Potentials in the Fitzroy Valley, was commissioned by Environs Kimberley and written by Curtin University's Tourism Research Cluster.

It found expanding parts of the Fitzroy River National Park would conserve the biological diversity, cultural richness, and values of the river while increasing economic development, boosting domestic tourism, and creating jobs.

Kimberley Land Council chief executive Tyronne Garstone said the report outlined economic opportunities which aligned with Traditional Owner values.

"For too long there has been a focus on extractive industries in the Kimberley, rather than opportunities that support the aspirations of Aboriginal people," he said.

"The Northern Australia Committee made clear recommendations that more must be done to develop the Indigenous economy and this should occur through the set-up of regional Indigenous development hubs that drive Traditional-Owner-led economic opportunities."

The study found about 160 full time tourism jobs would be created if the Fitzroy Valley was declared a national park, while visitation was expected to grow by nine per cent.

An online survey of almost 3,000 people highlighted the rich Aboriginal cultural and heritage significance of the area as "key attractors" to visit the Fitzroy Valley.

Report lead author associate professor Michael Volgger said the survey showed a strong appetite for tourism development in the Fitzroy Valley from residents.

"The report clearly highlights that the Fitzroy Valley can make a substantial contribution to ensuring the unique Kimberley region is able to achieve its full tourism potential," he said.

"In particular... respondents called for Traditional Owners to be able to take the lead in the tourism development process by providing business training and individualised mentoring to Indigenous tourism operations."

Environs Kimberley director Martin Pritchard said the results showed there was potential for economic growth and job creation in the Fitzroy Valley that protected the environment, supported Traditional Owners aspirations, and did not risk the health of the river.

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