The Australian and Queensland governments have unlocked $6 million towards the construction of the Big Rocks Weir in North Queensland, paving the way for critical pre-construction activities to start.
This funding, provided on a 50:50 split, will flow to Charters Towers Regional Council to fast-track pre-construction activities needed to ensure the rapid development of the long-awaited Big Rocks Weir.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Barnaby Joyce said the project would boost the economy and confidence of communities in the Charters Towers region.
"Supporting over 200 construction and ongoing jobs, this project will provide significant growth and employment opportunities for the region," the Deputy Prime Minister said.
"Agriculture is the beating heart of Australia. Our regions have been doing it tough with recent bushfires, droughts and now a pandemic, and this project will provide a reliable and sustainable source of water to help our northern Queensland farmers to recover and grow their businesses into the future."
Queensland Minister for Water Glenn Butcher said the construction of the weir was a unique opportunity to deliver an infrastructure project that will bring growth to the broader Charters Towers community.
"Local farmers can have confidence in planning for the future knowing that all levels of government are investing in new projects to deliver additional long-term water security," Mr Butcher said.
"This project will develop a 188-metre-long, 10,000-megalitres-capacity weir at Big Rocks, supporting regional communities through an improved water supply network and creating more local jobs."
Special Envoy for Northern Australia Senator Susan McDonald said it was welcome news for the communities of regional North Queensland.
"Some of the water captured by the weir will be available to support up to 5000 hectares of higher-value agriculture, including avocados, macadamias and citrus, with the rest going toward boosting water security in the Charters Towers region," Senator McDonald said.
"This is an exciting time for our regions, as the construction of the Big Rocks Weir will also bring with it an improved lifestyle, as well as recreation and tourism opportunities."
The pre-construction phase will deliver on-site geotechnical work, facilitate environmental analysis and approvals, maximise water yields for local irrigation, finalise engineering for the project, support the development of market-ready infrastructure design, and shore up the water demand and pricing.
Pre-construction is expected to finish in late 2022, which subject to all approvals will allow construction to start in early 2023 following the wet season.
The federal government has committed $54 million to the Hells Gates Dam Scheme, with $24 million to fully fund the detailed business case completed in August 2020 and $30 million towards the construction of the Big Rocks Weir.
The federal funding for the weir is being provided through the National Water Grid Fund, which is paving the way to national water security, while promoting economic activity and job creation.
The Queensland government has committed $30 million towards the Big Rocks Weir project, with $3 million funding pre-construction work and $27 million committed for full construction activities subject to the detailed business case and approvals.
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