Katherine Food Futures Roadshow 12 July 2017

Around 45 attendees participated in the Katherine Food Futures Roadshow to hear 15 presentations and discussions including:
• Successful Katherine Farmers.
• New Farming Projects in the Region.
• Federal Government Agencies – ONA, AusIndustry, FIAL
• NT Government Agencies – DPIR, DENR
• CSIRO on Fracking.
• Katherine Community Leaders.
• Environmental Research.

Simon Smith, President of NT Farmers introduced the ideas behind Food Futures and the role of NT Farmers in Northern Agricultural Development.

Katherine farmers, Maree Piccone owner of Manbulloo Mangoes and Chris Howie of Douglas Daly, opened the session with practical discussions of their successful businesses, how they became successful and advice for those seeking to farm in the north. Managing risk by growing the business with diversification and dealing with isolation were two key factors.

Tim Hill of AusIndustry represented the Federal Government and Food Futures sponsor: the North Australia Development Office; providing a summary of their activities in developing northern Australia. Mario Martini from the Business section of the Federal Dept. of Industry Innovation and Science and Food Innovation Australia Ltd, also briefed participants on Federal Government assistance programs.

Diversification of pastoral leases into cropping (surface water and furrow irrigation) were discussed in presentations by Mark Sullivan of Flying Fox Station, Kylie Gracey of NT Cattlemen’s Assoc. and Callen Thomson of Dept. Primary Industry. The proposed CRC project on Flying Fox was discussed. Water regulation was identified as a key issue in this discussion.

Gabby Yates, Water Planner with NT Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources spoke on water regulation, especially in the Katherine district and the need for better policy in surface water regulation as industry develops.

Prof Michael Douglas of Univ. WA spoke eloquently on “The Sensible Center”, the convergence of ideas between agricultural development, environmental protection, and indigenous economic development. Michael highlighted the benefits of farmers, environmentalists and indigenous groups talking to each other to identify common middle ground, rather than allowing extreme views on either the development or environment sides to dominate discussion.

Katherine community leaders, Fay Miller, Mayor of Katherine Council, and Sandra Nelson, MLA for Katherine, were both very positive about the role of developing agriculture in the Katherine region. The development of a transport hub in Katherine is a key priority for both. Funding From NT Government for a Katherine Industry Development Officer was recognized as a significant step forward.

Dr Ian Biggs of DPIR outlined the department’s R&D program and extension activities. Dr Damian Barrett of CSIRO hosted a long discussion about fracking in the Katherine region, with plenty of questions from participants.

We look forward to the next Roadshow! Watch this space.