The much-anticipated expansion of Ord Irrigation in the Northern Territory is a step closer, with AAM Investment Group selected as the preferred developer.
the main points:
- AAMIG says it initially plans to grow dryland crops such as cotton on 67,500 hectares
- The Ord irrigation project began near Kununurra (WA) in the 1960s after the construction of a diversion dam
- The Northern Territory Farmers Association says the development will create jobs and investment opportunities
Historically known as Ord Stage 3, the Keep Plains Agricultural Development is a 67,500 hectare plot of land in the Northern Territory adjacent to the Ord Irrigation Scheme in Western Australia.
AAM Investment Group (AAMIG) is an Australian owned investment company that already owns the nearby Legune cattle station.
Its portfolio also includes large-scale mixed farming and livestock operations near Forbes in New South Wales, cattle and sheep operations near Blackall in Queensland and large-scale poultry operations in South Australia.
Gary Edwards, managing director of AAMIG, said the company will begin developing the site for dryland farming.
“We will run it initially as a dryland project, but we will build it with most of the irrigation requirements in the future, so we will build things like canals as we go forward,” he said.
“There are a range of crops that we are looking to grow, in part to complement our cattle breeding operations in that region.
The company’s proposal says future irrigated crops could include mangoes, bananas, walnut trees, corn and other fruits and vegetables.
In the longer term, Mr. Edwards said there are “multiple ways” in which water could be delivered to the site, including the traditional plan to extend the existing cross-border irrigation scheme.
He said there are also opportunities to capture water on site and draw water from the Keep River.
“At the end of the day, this project is an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars,” he told rural ABC.
“In an ideal world, we would be up and running in three to five years…but we don’t rush or make foolproof timelines for this – we want it to happen as soon as possible because we have the money to invest.
“It’s going to be a massive investment for the region, and given there’s been a lot of debate about whether Ord 3 will ever be viable – well, it’s now on the table and it’s happening now.”
Jobs and innovation
AAMIG and the Northern Territory Land Corporation will now enter negotiations to finalize the project development agreement.
Northern Territory Growers Association chief executive Paul Burke said major agricultural development would yield “significant long-term results in economic, investment and regional development.”
“The influx will create new jobs and training opportunities and increase Northern Australia’s leadership capacity through innovations, technologies, new infrastructure and environmental stewardship,” he said.
The land release is understood to be the largest of its kind in the Northern Territory.