Bree Grima and Craig Van Rooyan sign the Paradise Dam petition.
Bree Grima and Craig Van Rooyan sign the Paradise Dam petition. Paul Donaldson

Paradise Dam: Everything you need to know from the inquiry

Initial announcement and reaction 

It was late September when news broke that the State Government was planning to reduce the storage capacity of Paradise Dam.

The move would generate up to 80,000 megalitres of water for irrigators and others battling the drought.

But the free water offer was no sweetener for opponents of the plan.

Burnett MP Stephen Bennett is angry at the state government's decision to lower the height of a local dam's spillway by five metres.
Burnett MP Stephen Bennett is angry at the state government's decision to lower the height of a local dam's spillway by five metres.

The LNP hit back immediately.

For Burnett State MP Stephen Bennett, the dam's five metre reduction made no sense at a time when the region was drought declared.

He said the state government was reducing the dam size due to safety requirements which was protecting the area from rare flooding that would occur once every 15,000 years.

"What does that mean? It just means they'll never build a dam in Queensland," Mr Bennett said last year.

"2013 was a bad flood but that should have been the benchmark."

A local musician was so upset by the news, he penned a song: 

"I don't get any benefit running around playing the blame game now," farmer Mark Mammino said during a press conference on National Farmers Day in November last year.

"I just want to see the problem fixed, I want every form of government to come out and say their number one goal is to reinstate Paradise Dam back to its original level."

Not long after, documents showed it could three times as much to repair Paradise Dam than it did to build in the first place.

The Weekend Australian, a stablemate of the NewsMail, reported that repairing the dam, which has major structural faults, would cost up to $700 million. 

Paradise Dam at Coringa QLD. Pic John Wilson
Paradise Dam at Coringa QLD. Pic John Wilson

Release of water

The massive water release happened in November, allowing the dam to drop back to 42 per cent capacity.

A Sunwater spokesman said the dam's capacity needed to drop to 42 per cent to lower the spillway by five metres.

The construction was important for the safety of communities downstream of the dam, the spokesman said.

In October, the NewsMail published a series of photos showing the dam's decline over a month.

On November 27, the NewsMail published a series of photos showing the dropping dam level over two months

Dam owner Sunwater had released 97,110 megalitres of water from the dam within that time period.

Resources Minister Anthony Lynham and Sunwater chairwoman Leith Boully announce an inquiry for Paradise Dam. Photo: Mike Knott.
Resources Minister Anthony Lynham and Sunwater chairwoman Leith Boully announce an inquiry for Paradise Dam. Photo: Mike Knott.

Technical reports and announcement of inquiry 

By the end of November, an inquiry was announced

Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham held a press conference in Lion's Park in North Bundaberg today, where he said the dam had faulty bonding between each layer of roller compacted concrete.

This was shown in the technical reports released about the same time as his announcement.

He said the inquiry would focus on listening to the public.

In December, the NewsMail reported a Paradise Dam Preparedness Review revealing more than 100 people could be at risk if Paradise Dam failed in the event of a "substantial" flood.

BFVG's Bree Grima.
BFVG's Bree Grima.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers and Rizzo report 

A DAM engineering expert came to Bundaberg in January on a fact-finding mission with growers and key stakeholders as part of a "truly independent" study commissioned by Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers into future options for Paradise Dam.

US-based Paul Rizzo, the chief technical officer at specialist engineering firm Rizzo International, has more than 50 years' experience in geotechnical and civil engineering, specifically dams, water resources and infrastructure projects.

Last month, the State Government agreed to release nine documents that Paul Rizzo needed to complete his technical report into Paradise Dam.

Jonathan Horton, QC, is the senior counsel member in the Paradise Dam Commission of Inquiry.
Jonathan Horton, QC, is the senior counsel member in the Paradise Dam Commission of Inquiry.

Inquiry

Brisbane

The first day of an inquiry into Paradise Dam was held in Brisbane on February 20

It began at 10am, with Commissioner John Byrne reading the conditions of the inquiry.

Senior counsel member Jonathan Horton QC told the Commission of Inquiry there would be an examination of quality processes and reporting since construction began in 2003.

He said in the preliminary hearing in Brisbane that the shear strength of lift joints was likely to a key aspect of the inquiry.

WANT TO BE HEARD: Judy Plath at the Paradise Dam protest outside the Bundaberg Courthouse.
WANT TO BE HEARD: Judy Plath at the Paradise Dam protest outside the Bundaberg Courthouse.

Bundaberg

Day 1: On March 2, Bundaberg hearings for the Paradise Dam Commission of Inquiry started at the Bundaberg Court House with Daryl Brigden as the first witness on the stand.

The inquiry examined the root cause of structural and stability issues identified with the dam.

Day 2: It was a simple message and one farmers and workers hoped would get through to the State Government and SunWater after a protest at the Bundaberg Courthouse on Tuesday, which had originally been planned as day one of the Bundaberg hearings.

Commissioner John Byrne said he was puzzled as to why little attention was given to a high ratio of unbonded lift joints in Paradise Dam.

This was his main concern about numerous reports after listening to highly technical advice for five hours in the Bundaberg Court House.

Day 3: Breaking down dam design guidelines, indexes used and the formulas used throughout dam construction were all part of the third day of the hearing at the Paradise Dam Commission of Inquiry.

Day 4: Sunwater spoke out about nine documents requested on behalf of US engineering expert, Dr Paul Rizzo, in order to provide clarity and context behind its stringent viewing stipulations.

In February, SunWater told Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers they could have conditional access to some documents which required Dr Rizzo to view the reports in person.

Having already left the country, the cost would be left to irrigators to fund Dr Rizzo's return. BFVG managing director Bree Grima said they declined their offer and would continue with the RTI process.

Day 5: The final day of this week's Paradise Dam Commission of Inquiry hearings saw two witnesses questioned about the quality practice of roller-compacted concrete, the apron design calculations and the dam's due diligence report.

Brisbane

US dam expert Paul Rizzo was among five witnesses discussing what is wrong with Paradise Dam in the hearing in Brisbane.

Experts agree more data is needed to determine if Paradise Dam is safe or not.

Five witnesses were cross-examined during the Commission of Inquiry, and they were asked if the dam was stable based on the information that was available.



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