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Australia’s next food bowl: just add water

WHAT IF? Coalstoun Lakes farmers Kerry Dove and Steve Marshall ponder what the valley would look like with a permanent water supply.
WHAT IF? Coalstoun Lakes farmers Kerry Dove and Steve Marshall ponder what the valley would look like with a permanent water supply. Erica Murree

DAMS or a better water supply could turn Coalstoun Lakes Valley into a food basket for the nation, according to Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd.

Farmers and politicians met on Tuesday to visit the area and discuss options for making the valley a hot-spot for horticulture.

Mr O'Dowd said there was a wide agricultural area just waiting to be drought-proofed.

"If we could get water there it would make it a very rich agricultural area. It would be great for Australia," he said.

"From the Isis Sugar Mill to Ban Ban Springs to Gayndah is a very productive area."

Mr O'Dowd said a plan to use unallocated water from Paradise Dam to improve farming was originally mooted in the 1990s.

"We know it will be fantastic," he said. "If you put water on that beautiful soil it'll grow anything."

For North Burnett Regional Council Mayor Don Waugh, standing on the side of the lake hill was an eye-opener.

"Driving through the valley, you know just how fertile the area is," he said.

"It has the potential to feed Australia but all that is missing is a regular supply of water." Farmer Mark Rackemann said he knew what this country here was capable of.

"This soil is magic," he said.

"It can grow a crop on two falls of rain, but needs that extra bit of water to finish it off."

BGA Kingaroy Agri Services' Ian Crosthwaite tabled a study, Agricultural Resources Assessment of Coalstoun Lakes, that outlined at least 20 different crops which were suitable to be grown in the valley.

"Anything can be grown here - just need the right kind of seasons," he said.

Mr O'Dowd has taken the farmers' plight to Canberra today for the National Party's "think tank".

The farmers outlined the various studies undertaken in past years before Paradise Dam was built. One option in one of those studies was to build a dam on Barambah Creek at Ban Ban Springs.

Cr Waugh raised the topic of on-farm storage infrastructure utilising the water in times of flood, while others agreed a pipeline from Paradise Dam was feasible.



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