CQ farmers push to secure allocation of Rookwood water
CENTRAL Queensland's farmers are thirsty for the water that will be contained behind the wall of the future Rookwood Weir, lining up in droves to secure allocations of the liquid gold.
The huge demands for water was revealed last week when CQ company McCosker Contracting, along with Australian company Lendlease Engineering were named by Sunwater as the major construction partners to deliver the long awaited water project.
Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said the first round seeking expressions of interest for allocations of the weir's water, which closed on July 21 was "fantastic".
He said there was a second process that was open now.
"Any farmers that want water out of Rookwood, now's the time, don't miss out," he said.
"Put that expression of interest in, Sunwater will help you, it's not too difficult and the first one was a great response farmers.
"It shows that this water is desperately needed in Central Queensland and I just think of the extra productivity that can come with agriculture, the water security for Gladstone, the water security for Keppel, this is great."
While he couldn't specifically say how many farmers expressed interest, he said it was "a great response and we expect a significant response for the second round of expressions of interest".
Sunwater general manager for Corporate Development Michael Pitman said they were currently in the evaluation process for the first round of EOIs.
"I can say that there was very strong interest and the submissions are very strong and we're very positive of a successful outcome of the tender one process," Mr Pitman said.
"Expressions of interest for the second process are open and we have received in excess of 50 submissions for that process going forward for the second tender.
"We'll be working with those interested parties in between now and that second tender phase to assist them in getting prepared for making a submission into the second tender."
When weighing up submissions, he said Sunwater evaluated a number of aspects on applications.
They were asking for submissions to include a business plan explaining what farmers would use the water for, and how they would leverage it to create economic benefit for the region.
While he couldn't be specific about the kind of crops that submissions were proposing, he did say that they were similar to the information memorandum.
"We are expecting the likes of macadamias to be strong, citrus and other grains."
He said submissions were concentrated geographically close to the river and close to the site of the future weir but "there had been some interest outside that direct region, further downstream towards Eden Bann".
He wasn't particularly surprised with the level of interest around water allocations.
"Once the announcement that the weir was proceeding, we were confident that the interest would be there and it has been very strong, which is pleasing," he said.
"I guess any uncertainty was around the physical construction timeline. Once that's been set now, we are very confident in the interest being there for the water use."
He said they were still on track to execute contracts for the first tender phase in September.
Capricornia Michelle Landry expressed frustration with politics being played in the region which she blamed for missing out on the announcement for the major construction contractors of Rookwood Weir, as one example.
"I wasn't invited to that and I'm the one who put the damn thing on the table, so for them to be carrying on saying they're working with the Federal Government is absolute garbage," she said.
"What does annoy me about Rookwood at the moment, it's great that we've got a local contractor and having local jobs but it's not the size it was supposed to be.
"They mucked around with this project for years and years and years. They've had a holdup after hold up and now instead of being 76,000 megalitres of high priority water, it's 72,000 megalitres of medium priority water which means that farmers don't get their water every year."
She said the Labor Government needed to get their facts straight.
"We're prepared to work (with them). I certainly don't want to see this carrying on from them right up to the election because I tell you what, people don't care about this stuff at the moment," she said.
"They don't care about politicians fighting. What they care about is jobs, putting food on the table, paying their mortgage and whether their health is going be affected by coronavirus.
"I would just like to say a bit more of a partnership in this area.
"I've heard that the water is actually really over allocated and there's such an interest for it.
"I've had government groups coming in to see me saying there's not going to be enough water now because of the difference in height. They're saying perhaps we can build Eden Bann Weir."
Ms Landry accused the Queensland Government of neglecting the regions in favour of projects in South East Queensland.
"When you look projects like the Cross River Rail and that was a $5 billion project, I believe it's blown out to $7.8 billion, they had no trouble finding the extra money for that," she said.
"Word around town it that projects have been cut back in the regions to pay for the Cross River Rail and if that is true, that is absolutely disgraceful."
A Cross River Rail Delivery Authority spokesperson refuted Ms Landry's accusation saying that "Cross River Rail is on time and on budget".
Responding to Ms Landry's concerns about the water capacity, there was frustration from within the Queensland Government given that they had repeatedly stated that Rookwood Weir could provide up to 76,000ML of medium priority water or 50,000ML of high priority water.
Sunwater was still considering the first round of Expressions of Interest, and no allocations have been made.
Dr Lynham said they were getting on with the job of building the $352 million Rookwood Weir, not playing politics with such an important project.
"We now have two road projects completed, another underway and a major contractor signed up and raring to go," Dr Lynham said.
"Local farmers are positive, local businesses are positive and local people are working on this project.
"I encourage the member for Capricornia to get on board with this region changing project rather than engaging in fearmongering.
"I continue to work with her boss, the deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, to see both governments delivering on their commitments."