Farmers and workers had rallied for the restoration of Paradise Dam outside the Bundaberg Courthouse, when the Commission of Inquiry held its hearing in Bundaberg.
Farmers and workers had rallied for the restoration of Paradise Dam outside the Bundaberg Courthouse, when the Commission of Inquiry held its hearing in Bundaberg.

Virus will not stop dam works

NATURAL Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said the State Government remains committed to the safety of communities downstream of Paradise Dam despite "unprecedented times" brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Lynham said the coronavirus had not changed the engineering advice he had received to lower the spillway before the next wet season.

"These works are proceeding as originally planned," he said.

"These works will also create 80 jobs, which is even more important in the current challenging economic conditions."

 

But Dr Lynham said information in the pandemic was also changing quickly and that it was hard to predict circumstances even a week ahead of time, let alone by the end of April.

This would be when Dr Lynham and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk are expected to receive the findings from the independent commission of inquiry into the dam's construction, which given previous statements is unlikely to affect their decision to lower the spillway.

The inquiry remains on schedule despite restrictions on public gatherings and its hearings continue next week through virtual technology.

Online live streaming had been accessible to the public. but it would now allow involved parties such as senior counsel Jonathan Horton QC to present their cases and ask further questions on April 6 and 7, no matter where they were.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers managing director Bree Grima said the commissioners had been clear about examining the root causes of the dam's stability issues.

"The detailed questioning by QC Horton to all witnesses is unveiling many contributing components," she said.

In BFVG's push to keep Paradise Dam at its full capacity, it had commissioned US dam expert Paul Rizzo, who had been called as a commission witness at the inquiry.

"We are watching the inquiry closely and have provided a second submission ot the Commission with further reports by Dr (Paul Rizzo)," Ms Grima said.

Water security was more important than it had been, because of the pandemic, she said. "This region provides 25 per cent of Australia's fresh produce and we will continue to feed the nation, but only if we have a secure water system," she said.

"We are calling on the State Government to conduct further testing based on the testing methodology provided to the Commission of Inquiry by Rizzo International prior to any works commencing on Paradise Dam.

"We need to keep the community safe as well as protect our competitive advantage and economic prosperity."

Newly elected Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey said the dam continued to be a priority to the council.

"Coronavirus doesn't change what's important for our future economic success," he said.

"Clearly, federal, state and local government budgets are all being impacted but potentially one way to stimulate the recovery and provide employment through capital works."

Federal Hinkler MP Keith Pitt said the State Government needed to fix the dam to its full capacity.

Mr Pitt was asked if the Federal Government could afford to contribute to the dam's restoration if asked by the State Government.

He said, "The Queensland State Labor Government has made no request to the Federal Government in relation to Paradise Dam.

"The State Government have not designed or costed any repairs on Paradise Dam, only to reduce its capacity."



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