Bree Grima of Bundaberg Fruit Growers at the Ben Anderson Weir. Picture: John Wilson
Bree Grima of Bundaberg Fruit Growers at the Ben Anderson Weir. Picture: John Wilson

Growers weigh in on dam inquiry

THE mismanagement of Paradise Dam's construction should never happen again.

Finding ways to stop history repeating has to be the focus of an independent inquiry, said Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers' managing director Bree Grima.

She said the group will make a submission to the inquiry which was announced last Friday.

Yesterday after almost 10 weeks of water releasing, the dam's capacity fell to 42 per cent, but in order for this to happen, 105,000 megalitres of water was released.

Dam owner Sunwater reduced the level to prepare for construction next year. It aims to reduce the spillway by five metres.

The inquiry is to be led by former Supreme Court judge John Byrne, who would offer no comment except to say the process and appointments had not yet been confirmed.

"I expect that information will be available through a website in due course," he said.

The inquiry terms are expected to be revealed this week. Ms Grima said the terms of reference should investigate who was responsible for the dam's planning material and construction, and to investigate the entity that ensured the dam met safety criteria when it was completed in December, 2005.

Local farmers said the first priority had to be in guaranteeing future water supply, but supported investigating the construction methods.

An inquiry would separate the truth from the lies.

Childers cane grower John Russo said the inquiry needed to fact-check the local rumours that lasted 14 years.

Mr Russo said one of the rumours involved the resignation of a Childers-based engineer working on the construction who had been dissatisfied with the method used.

"But most of all the farmers want their water restored," Mr Russo said.

"I don't care how it happens. They're talking about money, the money they've wasted in this rehabilitation.

"How are they going to take five metres off the top of the concrete wall?

"Then they're talking about 10 metres, then they're talking about 17.

"Get to the real story; this is only stage 1.

"Farmers are angry with the miscontempt of which they've been treated."

Mr Russo said he used water released from Paradise Dam, adding "I was stupid if I didn't", although he still had to pay pumping costs.

Initially he was informed that the free water from the dam would be used until December 10, but as of last Wednesday it had stopped.

Canegrowers Isis chairman Mark Mammino said he appreciated the State Government for announcing the inquiry, and for releasing the technical reports quickly.

"Some of those reports hadn't been completed that long," Mr Mammino said.

"I was nervous that we would see them before Christmas, but to see them by the end of November was a good sign.

"It's great they are going to do an inquiry.

"There's a lot of speculation and conspiracy theories that are out there at the moment of what went wrong."

Although it would be good to learn what went wrong it did not solve the problem of water shortages during drought.

The dam was set to drop further than 42 per cent by the time farmers used their allocations, he said. Mr Mammino said that he was able to use some water and that because the ground was unusually dry, crops benefited.

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