Farmers’ $20m plan to save region
DESPERATE farmers in the Mundubbera fruit bowl say they could be drought-proofed for as little as $20 million and create hundreds more jobs.
The farmers are staring down the barrel of drought as a State Government rule means they are just days away from having their water from nearby Boondooma Dam turned off to protect the water supply for the massive Tarong Power Station.
They have begged State Development and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Lynham to turn on the tap to a Wivenhoe Dam pipeline that could supply Tarong and allow them to keep using water from Boondooma Dam.
They say that short-term solution will keep their farms alive but the best long-term answer is to build a weir downstream of the dam, on the Boyne River at Cooranga.
Irrigation advisory committee chairman and grower Ken Darrow said the weir could be built for $20 million and would give growers the certainty needed to expand.
The weir has the potential to take their current produce from $90 million and 900 jobs a year to $120 million and hundreds more jobs - a massive boost for a town the size of Mundubbera with its 1300 permanent residents, Mr Darrow said.
"The cost of $20 million would pay for itself," Mr Darrow said.
"It's a very good investment."
Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said the Federal Government had the money available, but the State Government had to ask for it.
Dr Lynham said he was working to find a solution but applications were closed for Federal funding.
He said loans were available but that depended on work he currently had under way.
"Secure water is a high priority for the Government and we are working closely with all stakeholders," Dr Lynham said.
"Ample water is available from Wivenhoe, in the short term, but pumping the water will incur a cost.
"It also needs to be reiterated that Boondooma Dam was purpose built as the primary source of water for Tarong Power Station, which is critical to the security of electricity supply in Queensland.
"In the longer term, the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and SunWater are examining ways to improve reliability of supplies, including hydrologic modelling of a potential weir at Cooranga Weir.
"The results of this work will be shared with growers and the council.
"I also want to again assure everyone in Mundubbera that there is no risk to town water supply.
"Mr O'Dowd has not contacted my office at any stage on behalf of the irrigators with input on this issue."
State Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, whose electorate of Nanango includes the power station, urged the Government to turn on the Wivenhoe supply.
"Labor must find a solution for these farmers, and if that means turning on the tap from Wivenhoe to Tarong in the interim, then so be it," she said.
"It's clear a long-term plan is needed for water security - the Boondooma Dam is under pressure.
"An LNP government would immediately investigate dam upgrades such as a new weir."