TWO peak Tablelands farming bodies have warned that the proposed Nullinga Dam is not a “silver bullet” solution to the region’s water woes, instead outlining a three-point strategy they say will guarantee future growth and sustainability.
Mareeba District Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and Tableland CANEGROWERS are advocating for not only the construction of Nullinga Dam but the modernisation of the Mareeba Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme and the construction of a pipe to tunnel water from North Johnstone River near Malanda to Kenny Creek, a tributary of the Barron River.
Between the three projects, the MDFVGA and CANGROWERS estimate an additional 50,000 to 60,000 megalitres of water could be diverted to farms across the Mareeba Dimbulah irrigation area with up to 80,000 megalitres for expansion in the Dimbulah area.
MDFVGA president, Joe Moro, said recent media speculation pinning the future of Tablelands agriculture to the construction of Nullinga Dam needed to be broadened to include the Mareeba Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme modernisation and the North Johnstone River diversion.
The North Queensland Register this week reported on the latest developments with the preliminary business plan for the Nullinga Dam project, and alternatives put forward by Tablelands Regional Council mayor, Joe Paronella.
“While it is true that any one of these projects on their own will have a positive impact on water supply, only by implementing all three can we expect to see tangible results,” Mr Moro said.
“Simply putting all our eggs in one basket with the Nullinga Dam proposal is short-sighted and won’t result in long term water sustainability for agriculture in the region, without the support of the two other projects.”
The Mareeba Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme modernisation project was assessed as not suitable for funding under the first assessment round of the federal government’s $500 million National Water Infrastructure Development Fund (NWIDF) - Capital Component.
Mr Moro estimated that the scheme’s modernisation would result in savings of more than 20,000 megalitres of water, which is currently lost through the existing infrastructure.
Water provider SunWater put forward the application for NWIDF funding earlier this year and will have another chance to revise its application and apply for funding in the NWIDF’s second assessment round.
“There has been considerable investment occurring across the avocado, banana, citrus and cane industries over the last few years that has seen increased utilisation in both land and water within the scheme’s area,” Tableland CANEGROWERS deputy chair, Maryann Salvetti said.
“We strongly encourage the Australian government to look favourably on the re-assessment of this project, as successful funding would have a positive flow-on effect on jobs and economic growth across the Atherton Tablelands and Far North Queensland region.”