The Etheridge shire mayor, Warren Devlin, is confident that the processes put in place by the Palaszczuk government for the allocation of water in the Gilbert River catchment will have a satisfactory outcome for his shire.
While northern crop farmers are impatient to see water tenders opened and areas of state significance announced to fast-track high value irrigation in the shire, Cr Devlin said his shire wasn’t yet ready for a water allocation.
“We’re working out how much water we need,” he said. “We’re doing a bit of reverse engineering; we’ll probably have to finance a dam so we’ve got to make sure the model can support it.
“We’re getting down to working out whether we have in-stream or off-stream dams.”
The council was quick to respond last September to news that the $2 billion Integrated Food and Energy Development project had failed to provide an Environmental Impact Statement in time, announcing that it was ready to make its own Gilbert River Agricultural Precinct happen.
A Tasmanian engineer awarded for his oversight of all the irrigation schemes being developed in that state, Greg Stanford, has been advising the shire and has taken part in a number of consultations with Palaszczuk government ministers, according to Cr Devlin.
“We are putting a company together to do this development,” he said.
“Economic modelling shows we can do it but we’ll be looking for financial assistance.
“The Etheridge shire will be going into its reserves.”
An advertisement for a project manager “ to lead the establishment of the Gilbert River Irrigation Scheme and gain the necessary approvals for the project” is at the top of the council website’s jobs vacancy list.
Natural Resources Minister, Anthony Lynham, said there were potential projects across the catchment, including a staged irrigation development by the Etheridge Shire Council.
“I met with the mayor, Warren Devlin, to discuss the development and I will continue to discuss the planning of this water release with key stakeholders to ensure that water is released in the best interests of the community and maximises economic opportunities,” he said. “It is important that we strategically release this water; taking into account demand, potential projects and community expectations.”
Dr Lynham added that the government would ensure the water was used to maximise the economic opportunities for the communities of north Queensland.