LNP furious at being bypassed in Paradise Dam amendment
LOCAL MPs are furious that an amendment to speed up the lowering of Paradise Dam has been attached to a bill targeting mine safety.
The State Government's amendment aims to reduce the length of time taken to lower the spillway by five metres, which the opposition describes as "tearing down the wall".
The bill had been debated in the year's first parliamentary session today, but had not yet been decided on.
It comes less than a week after Bundaberg Mayor Jack Dempsey wrote a letter to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, asking her to pause the tender process until a new independent report was considered.
The amendment was attached to the Resources Safety and Health Bill which the opposition supports in the hopes an independent body will better regulate safety in Queensland mines.
But the additional amendment would mean requirements for 17 different government acts mainly concentrating on transport, fishing and environmental considerations would be overlooked - but only for Paradise Dam.
This would not apply to any other dam.
The dam's integrity is the focus of an independent inquiry, and the State Government and the dam's owner, Sunwater, previously announced the spillway would be lowered because of safety concerns.
Resources Minister Anthony Lynham announced the addition of Paradise Dam into the bill in parliament yesterday , in an effort to complete the structural changes before the next wet season.
"It recognises that reducing the height in the dam wall does not have the same environmental land issues associated with constructing a new dam or raising the height of the existing structure," Dr Lynham said.
"Simply put, the Burnett River at this site is already significantly more modified.
"This amendment maximises the construction window prior to the 2020-21 wet season, enabling contractors to mobilise on site in March."
"Sunwater are not exempt from safety obligations when undertaking works such as under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2011."
Dr Lynham said there had been 13 different engineering experts that advised to complete work immediately on the dam.
Lowering the spillway was part of the government's plan to address the dam's problems.
He said there was a commission of inquiry investigating the cause of the dam's faults, while at the same time, Building Queensland was investigating options for local long-term water security.
Burnett MP Stephen Bennett accused the state government of being "ideological driven" with their decision to lower the dam.
He said it was unbelievable that the State Government would speed up the process considering that dam expert Paul Rizzo recently announced there were alternative safe options than lowering the spillway. Dr Rizzo was part of a study commissioned by Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers which would investigate future options for the dam.
"This appears to be if they don't do it they won't get their approvals until after the election and they seem hell bent on destroying the water capacity, water security, the future viability of my region," Mr Bennett said.
Bundaberg MP David Batt said the State Government had completely bypassed parliamentary discussion and further community consultation by pushing Paradise Dam into an unrelated bill.
Mr Batt was part of the parliamentary committee involved with the bill, but he knew nothing about the changes involving Paradise Dam which Dr Lynham included in parliament.
Mr Batt said the amendment rushed through parliament should have been brought to the committee members such as himself, who would have up to six months to review it.
They would then seek community consultation from relevant community groups, which in this case would have included Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers, and Canegrowers, before making recommendations to Dr Lynham.
"He's shortcutted all that process and rushed these through so we have to debate this today … and nobody was aware this was coming," Mr Batt said.
Mr Batt said that although the tendering process was due for completion by May, there would have been numerous acts that would have had to have abided by. Without these acts it could speed the process by up to two years.