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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Kununurra, Western Australia

Kununurra is a hot, ancient place with scenery that takes your breath away. Now I know why they made the first part of the movie 'Australia' up here, you have to see it to believe it.

It's home to the Ord River Irrigation Scheme (ORIS). The Ord River was once one of the fastest flowing rivers in Australia in the wet season but in the dry, it was reduced to a series of small water holes.

It was decided that there was an urgent need to harness this huge amount of water rushing straight out to sea every year and that's when ORIS was born.

Opening in 1972, ORIS was a massive undertaking and took nine years to complete. That most precious commodity - water - provides irrigation to farmland, every day, all year round and the flow down the river is regulated by the opening and closing of gates.

Lake Argyle

This successful agricultural endeavour produces sugar cane, chickpeas, melons, pumpkins, mangoes, sandlewood and citrus and also generates power for the town of Kununurra, Wyndham and the Argyle Diamond Mine. Not surprising then that State and Federal governments have given the go ahead for expansion of the farms.

Lunch break

The dam created Lake Argyle which holds 18 times the volume of water in Sydney Harbour. It was named after the property it partly submerged - Argyle Downs, home to Dame Mary Durack, famous Australian author who wrote "Kings in Grass Castles".

She traces her grandfather's epic journey across the continent to WA, where he established pastoral stations in the 1890s. She also wrote about her father, politician Michael Durack in "Sons in the Saddle".

Water pours down here in the wet

The lake is regularly refilled by the monsoonal rains in the 'wet' each year and is home to abundant wild-life including 25,000 fresh water crocodiles.

Ivanhoe Crossing

Thanks to the foresight of the architects of this mighty project, the successful and productive agricultural farms in Kununurra will never experience drought ever again.