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Expansion of the Ord River irrigation scheme

The Ord River is located in the Kimberley Region of WA.

Irrigated agriculture on the Ord River began with the development of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme (ORIS) in the early 1960s and provided for the development of 14,000ha of agricultural land, underpinning the development of the town of Kununurra. 

In 2010, the Western Australian Government contributed $322.5 million to build the essential infrastructure to enable the release of 13,400ha of land for irrigated agriculture as part of the Ord Irrigation Expansion Project.  This expansion is typically referred to as Ord Stage 2. Find out more at ORD River expansion project.

At the same time the Commonwealth Government invested $195 million in social and community infrastructure in the East Kimberley region. Find out more at East Kimberley development package.

The Australian, Western Australian and Northern Territory governments are all working to explore opportunities for the further expansion of irrigated agriculture in the East Kimberley region. On 23 November 2012 the three governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Ord.  The MoU sets out a commitment to work together to address key issues with the potential extension and expansion of Ord irrigation into the Northern Territory.

The Northern Territory Government has announced the commencement of a Request for Proposal process to select a developer for Ord Stage 3. The process commenced on 3 April 2016 and is expected to be finalised by the end of June 2016. Interested parties can apply to receive a copy of the Request for Proposal document at Ord Stage 3 Expansion - Spirit Hills.

In 2012, Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia started an investigation on 6000ha of red loamy soils – the Cockatoo Sands – near Kununurra. Find out more at ORD River irrigation expansion - Stage 3. The Western Australian Government has also announced the Bonaparte Plains project as part of its Water for Food program.  Bonaparte Plains is a joint land and water investigation aimed at developing up to 30,000 hectares of irrigated agriculture in the loamy sands of the East Kimberley.  Find out more at Water for food.

In the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia the Government announced that it will commit up to $5 million for a detailed examination of the economic feasibility of the proposed Ord Stage 3 development through the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund

The proposed Ord Stage 3 area is highlighted in the map below:

Ord Stage 3 Highlighted area

Source: Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries

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