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First crops for KAI

Gooniyandi Aboriginal Corporation chairwoman Lynette Shaw, Miriuwung elder Ted Carlton, Gooniyandi elder Mervyn Street, Kimberley Agricultural Investment general manager Jim Engelke, Miriuwung elder Button Jones, Gooniyandi elder Thomas Dick and Peter Taylor from GoGo Station.

A Chinese company has its first crop in the ground two-and-a-half years after being named as the State Government-preferred developer of farmland on the Ord River irrigation scheme.

Shanghai Zhongfu-owned Kimberley Agricultural Investment finished planting about 250ha with chia and sorghum over the weekend.

KAI general manager Jim Engelke said it could eventually have crops covering about 600ha this growing season.

Mr Engelke said the chia would be exported to China and that KAI was keeping its options open on marketing the sorghum.

The initial crop is just a taste of things to come with the Goomig site covering 7400ha and KAI also set to develop a 6000ha site known as Knox Plain.

KAI appears back on track with the Knox development after warning the project could not proceed under onerous conditions proposed by Australia’s environmental watchdog.

The Department of the Environment amended its draft assessment after talks with KAI.

KAI settled a native-title agreement with traditional owners the Miriuwung and Gajerrong to develop the Ord land and last week hosted Aboriginal elders from around Fitzroy Crossing.

The Gooniyandi people are looking to negotiate a native-title settlement that would allow the lessees of Gogo Station near Fitzroy Crossing to push ahead with a 15,000ha irrigation project.

Gooniyandi Aboriginal Corporation chairwoman Lynette Shaw said elders had been impressed by the package the Miriuwung and Gajerrong people had secured, particularly the job opportunities and training for their young people.

“This is something that we’re looking at for the future so we wanted to come and get the facts,” she said. “The training, education and jobs that are out here have really opened my mind.

“We love our land and our land is precious but ... where some lands are not being used, why not use it for this.”