Murray-Darling Basin irrigators have bought two major Queensland properties in the past six months.
Etta Plains, north of Julia Creek, which has a 39,500-megalitre water allocation from the Flinders River, was bought by the Findley family from Narrabri for $25 million in November.
Following that, the Dickson family from Warren in New South Wales purchased Woodlands Station near Julia Creek for an undisclosed amount.
The selling agent for Etta Plains, Richmond Shire Mayor John Wharton, expects the new owners to develop off-stream water storage for irrigation on the property.
“The water hydrology is all done, the design's been done, they could go in and start building tomorrow,” Cr Wharton said.
“They may not do it now — that's up to their cashflow. They've just spent a fair bit of money buying the property.”
Reports say Woodlands Station has no plans for irrigation in the foreseeable future.
Cr Wharton says irrigation would bring real economic stimulus to the area.
“Dry farming just gives yourself an opportunity and I think some of them will admit that they were a bit late getting in with the plant [this year],” he said.
“You don't put a lot of money into it, not like an irrigation farm where you've got to build diversion drains and storages, and prepare and pump water.”
Agforce water spokesperson Kim Bremner says political and environmental chaos on the Murray-Darling is leading farmers to buy into other areas to spread their risk.
“We've seen cattle producers do it as well, and farmers and irrigators are no different,” Mr Bremner said.
“There'll be lots of challenges up there and lots of new things that they'll have to learn.”
Mr Bremner said irrigators from Queensland's Darling Downs are looking at expanding north too.
“I'm not exactly sure where they're headed but there was also talk around the district that a couple of young fellas were wanting to head north to either Kununurra [in Western Australia] or north-west Queensland,” Mr Bremner said.
“It's the youth and the energy that they bring with them that will get the irrigation industry going in north-west Queensland.”
Cr Wharton and Mr Bremner both say more funding is needed to develop and maintain infrastructure needed to transport and process crops in outback Queensland.