The proposed Hells Gates dam site would provide the water security needed to allow the northern cattle industry to sustain itself and thrive into the future according to Member for Kennedy Bob Katter.
Mr Katter launched the Upper Burdekin Irrigation Scheme (UBurIs) which revolves around the development of the Hells Gates site in Townsville on Monday.
Situated 115km west of Townsville and with a storage capacity of 5.7m megalitres, the dam would bring an end to the “protein drought” that northern producers face annually due to the reliance on rainfall Mr Katter said.
“We should be able to turn off five million head of cattle in the north but the annual protein drought caused by the regions limited rainfall restricts that,” he said.
“The northern cattle industry could be worth up $5000m annually if the protein drought is fixed.
“We need action not further talk, we need to build this dam.”
The dam would also be used to irrigate cane and sorghum crops, allow for ethanol production and would lead to the generation of base-load electricity in the north for the first time in 60 years.
Townsville mayor Jenny Hill said the project has been on the books since the 1929 when it was known as The Bradfield Scheme.
“The Townsville City Council is in full support of the proposal as it will secure the water supply for the north and create jobs,” Cr Hill said.
Before any movement occurs with the proposal additional feasability work is required which is being spearheaded by Townsville Enterprise who sent the Federal government an expression of interest for funding to coordinate studies on a regional water security plan which would include assessment of the Hells Gates dam site.
Member for Thuringowa, Aaron Harper said securing water for the north is vital from the state government’s point of view.
“We hope to get the feasibility study underway after the funding application is approved,” Mr Harper said.
Cr Hill said the business case will help verify if the UBurIs proposal will be a more viable option to proceed with than other irrigation projects that have been discussed.
Infrastructure involved in the UBurIs proposal includes the $313m dam at Hells Gates and a $490m diversion canal 240km from Hells Gates to a delineated area suitable for farming 30km south-west of Charters Towers.
The scheme will incorporate 124,000 hectares of farmland including 24,000ha of which would likely be used to grow a cattle fodder suitable crop.
At present one in six or 900,000 head of cattle are turned off annually in north Queensland NQ out of a pool of 5.4m head.
The reports states that with irrigation north Queensland should be able to turn-off one out of every three or 180,000 head annually which would match southern production. At an average of $1200/head the increase in production would create an additional $1,080m per annum.
For this to occur every station would need to recieve 200ha of freehold land with an attached irrigation entitlement and every “blocky” holding an area of 200ha or less would need to receive an irrigation entitlement for the total area of land they own.
In addition 30, 1200ha irrigation blocks would need to be established in the circle around the Gulf’s live cattle port of Karumba. The circle would include the Coleman, Mitchell, Staaten, Gilbert, Norman and Flinders river’s.
Three irrigation developments would also need to be built on the Flinders River at Hughenden, Richmond and Cloncurry and lastly UBurIs.
The UBurIs construction would also lead to the creation of a second major NQ abattoir which would be situated in Charters Towers and fed by a dozen quartering works to be built across the Mid-West, Gulf, Tablelands and Cape York.
If irrigated NQ’s current herd numbers should double from the current 5.4m quota as Cape York would be able to maximise it’s quota to 3m head from the current 151,000 head that are currently run in the region. Irrigation would also eliminate the cyclical collapse in northern herd numbers during drought when cows and breeders are sold off.
The increased herd numbers would create an additional turn-off of 1.6m head/annum which would bring an extra $1,900m yearly to the north.
The UBurIs proposal also incorporates a switch to processing taking place in the north.
The report states that the continuation of the 50/50 split between the live market and the processing market encompassing an additional 5m head (over a 10 year build up period) would result in a 10m head NQ herd turning off one out of three head annually of which 1.6m would go to the process market which would create an additional $4,000m per annum based on $2500/head multipled by 1.6m.
According to the UBurIs report If the proposal is greenlit it’s estimated 15,000 direct jobs would be created in rural Australia in addition to 50,000 indirect jobs.