ENVIRONMENTAL field surveys have kicked for the $2.8 billion Urannah water, food and energy scheme, which is set to diversify the Greater Whitsunday region.
The surveys involve 166 properties across the Issac, Whitsunday and Mackay local government areas, paving the way for the visionary project.
The survey work will also involve detailed soil sampling for project's 22,500 hectare agricultural precinct on the Bowen and Broken rivers near Collinsville. That part of the project alone is expected to create 650 full time agricultural jobs.
Urannah Scheme managing director John Cotter said he was firmly committed to exploring all options with land managers, indigenous landowners and native title groups.
"The market competition from the private sector for water and new energy sources will enable the development of a major, high value cropping project on currently underutilised agricultural lands," Mr Cotter said.
"Our interviews with 13 major mines in the area have shown there is definitely demand for energy and water from industrial users. That gives us the comfort we can also supply water at a competition and sustainable prices.
"We see the Urannah agriculture precinct will be the benchmark for irrigated agriculture in the Great Barrier Reef catchment."
The 22,500ha agriculture precinct comprises of 11 key properties, and will be managed as a single scheme.
Mr Cotter said there was significant financial pressure on Sunwater to maintain an aging asset base at the time when their tariffs did not reflect the capability of those assets.
"It's the equivalent of a declining membership of a golf club being asked to chip in more and more money to keep the club open," Mr Cotter said. "It's just not a sustainable model. We need new, major investments."
Urannah Water Schemerecently opened a project headquarters in Bowen.
- John Cotter will be part of panel at Rural Press Club in Brisbane on March 5 alongside Sunwater chair Leith Boully and Riparian Capital Partners managing partner Nick Waters discussing the future of water, infrastructure, pricing and how water utilities and customer demands can best benefit Queensland.