Untapped potential

Dam projects on agenda in north


Agribusiness
Raising the Burdekin Falls Dam wall is one of the water security projects being investigated across the north. Photo: Wade Howlett, Photography by Wade.

Raising the Burdekin Falls Dam wall is one of the water security projects being investigated across the north. Photo: Wade Howlett, Photography by Wade.

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PROJECTS to shore up the north's water security and boost agricultural output are back on the agenda after February's floods.

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PROJECTS to shore up the north's water security and boost agricultural output are back on the agenda in the wake of last month's floods.

The Hughenden Irrigation Scheme is powering ahead with a new authority established to oversee the project, which attracted $182 million in federal funding last year.

The North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority will also streamline processes for Hells Gate Dam.

Hughenden Irrigation Corporation chairman Shane McCarthy said a dam at Fairlight Creek would have filled many times over if constructed prior to the flood.

The dam will have a capacity of 500,000 megalitres, with another 200,000 megalitres in holding dams.

"When the river was a metre under the bridge in Hughenden 537,000 megalitres was going past in a 24 hour period. In 24 hours we could have filled the dam," Mr McCarthy said.

"We could have filled it many times over if it had been built at that stage instead of the water flowing out to the Gulf."

He said the dam could have prevented flooding in town and hay could have been grown on irrigated land.

"The north side of Hughenden flooded and we could have prevented that. With the amount of country we would have been able to irrigate, we would have had hay locally to move around the region."

Mr McCarthy said the first $990,000 was in the account and was being spent on design work and a business case.

KAP State Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter said he was pleased to see the project progressing.

"It’s good to see everyone getting on board now but we expect to have to fight every inch of the way to turn the $180m into a bountiful wealth creating asset for the north," Mr Katter said.

Other projects progressing across the north include the Nullinga Dam on the Atherton Tablelands and Urannah Dam near Mackay, with business cases expected to be finalised this year.

Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said preliminary work was underway on the $352 million Rockwood Weir project in central Queensland. 

Sunwater is also conducting additional investigations, including an ‘expression of interest’ process to determine demand for water from the Burdekin Falls Dam wall raising project.

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington has also committed to progressing those projects and will establish a new government-owned corporation based in Townsville to construct new dams if elected.

MSF Sugar general manager business development Hywel Cook said additional water from the Nullinga Dam would allow them to expand and value add to the Tablelands Mill, while increasing broader agricultural industries in the region.

"All the current water supply is allocated, 100 per cent, to do anything substantial and double agriculture in the area we need an additional dam.

"The reality is the whole of the Tablelands is a great place for agriculture, with wetland and dryland farming opportunities with irrigation, it is close to international ports.

"It seems to make more sense to expand agriculture and agricultural processing west of Mareeba, with the expansion of tree crops there is a lot of demand and it's high value agriculture."

LNP resources spokesman and Burdekin MP Dale Last said water security was vital for the north to flourish.

"If you have water, you have opportunities for the agricultural sector and resource industries, for both domestic and industrial use," Mr Last said.

"We are serious about building dams and we will be accessing federal government funding to progress the approval and construction of these dam projects.

"People are sick and tired of the endless studies and reports around water infrastructure, we are committed to build these dams as a priority.

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