Australian sugar and guar cropping, meat processing and aquaculture project Integrated Food and Energy Development (IFED) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU)with the Queensland government to access unallocated water in the Gilbert River subject to an environmental assessment process.
The MOU was announced to parliament by Anthony Lynham, minister for natural resources in Queensland, on Thursday. Lynham said under the proposal water would be diverted from the Einasleigh and Etheridge rivers into two artificial off-stream lakes and channelled to pumping stations which supply irrigation.
“Until IFED has completed the comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement process, the government is not in a position to release any unallocated water in the Gilbert River catchment,” he told parliament. The project will need an independent scientific review before it can proceed with irrigation from the river.
The agreement sets out “a transparent and comprehensive pathway for the project”, Lynham told parliament.
“Our MOU provides strong further environmental safeguards beyond the usual EIS processes. Our MOU provides for an independent scientific assessment of the proposal to ensure that the proposed water offtake is sustainable with the catchment water available. It provides for measures to address impacts identified by the environmental impact statement and, further, it provides that the proponents pay commercial rates for the water,” he said.
IFED is planning to raise $2 billion to create a vertically integrated sugar and guar production operation. Further details about the project can be found here.