Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt.
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt. Mike Knott BUN201217PITT3

$1.3m water infrastructure studies' results due back today

REPORTS for two water infrastructure feasibility studies in the Wide Bay Burnett and North Burnett regions are due to be released today.

The Bundaberg Channel Capacity Upgrade Feasibility Study looked at the most effective options for channel upgrades, improved water security, and augmentation of the Bundaberg Water Supply Scheme, with the possibility of 100,000 million litres of additional water available for use.

It also assessed potential locations for new broad-scale irrigation developments in the region and aimed to identify options for water delivery to the area by looking at the potential additional water to supply new and existing customers within and in new areas outside of the scheme.

Two milestones the $140,000 study aimed to reach were the completion of a demand assessment for uptake of allocations from Paradise Dam and the completion of the study on water infrastructure options to support agricultural growth in Wide Bay Burnett.

The feasibility study for the State Government related project was funded under the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund (NWIDF).

The second feasibility study report due to be released today is of the Gayndah Regional Irrigation Development Project.

The $1,231,024 study looked at the feasibility of new water storage and irrigation infrastructure options that could provide up to an additional 28,000 million litres to help the Isis Central Sugar Mill Company Ltd cultivate 6,800ha for sugarcane in the Gayndah region of the Burnett River catchment and boost production by almost 500,000 tonnes.

"This project could also result in reinstating the crest level of Claude Wharton Weir," Mr Pitt said of the project.

The study received the $1.2million funding from the Coalition in 2016 and was one of many projects part of a $150million commitment to fast-track water infrastructure projects in Queensland.

According to the Coalition, a new water storage and irrigation infrastructure could provide up to 28,650 megalitres from new or under-utilised water sources and enable additional cane production of around 498,000 tonnes.

The Coalition's 2016 Election Policy to invest in Queensland's Water Infrastructure estimated that if the two projects turned into reality and were granted a loan under the Federal Government's National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility (NWILF), they could deliver up to 90 new jobs and a $60million per annum boost to the regional economy.

While the applications for the two feasibility assessments in the wider Burnett region to be funded were approved, another was not as fortunate.

The Coalstoun Lakes and Lower Barambah Irrigation Project application was unsuccessful.

A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities said the project's application was "ranked below the point at which funding was fully committed".

"The competitive, merit-based expression of interest process for feasibility funding was significantly over-subscribed, with 60 applications received seeking over $92million in funding from the Australian Government against available funding of $34.5million."

The spokesperson said subject to the funding available, 34 studies were funded, meaning "the feasibility component of the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund (NWIDF) is fully committed".

Currently in Queensland there are 15 water infrastructure projects in the feasibility study phase under the NWIDF - not to be confused with the NWILF loan facility.

A spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy said the study phase was a "critical step for making responsible decisions before spending millions of dollars of taxpayers' money".

To be eligible for the NWIDF capital funding for a feasibility assessment, proposed water infrastructure projects must be ready to progress to construction.

Once assessed, a project can apply for a concessional loan through the Australian Government's $2billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility (NWILF).

The initiative is available to provide state and territory governments with concessional loans to co-finance the construction of water infrastructure.

In response to a Question on Notice asked by Member for Parliament Colin Boyce, Deputy Premier Hon Jackie Trad said the NWILF must ultimately be paid back.

"It does not represent a grant ... Loans may be structured to provide an interest-only repayment period of up to five years with a further period of ten years to fully repay the principal interest," she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure said the loan facility's funding was available until June 30, 2026.

"(This is) in recognition that it can take state and territory governments many years to develop large water infrastructure projects to the point where they are investment ready," the spokesperson said.

According to the answer tabled in Parliament, there have not been any applications made under NWILF for projects in Queensland,

"Nation-wide, no loan has been granted (yet either)," Ms Trad said.

However, a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure said the Australian Government was currently considering a loan application from the Government of Western Australia in support of the proposed $394million Myalup-Wellington Project.

In his Question on Notice, Mr Boyce asked whether the Treasurer would commit to accessing some of the Federal Government's Water Infrastructure Fund to give water security to fruit and berry farmers and instigators in the river system in the Callide Electorate.

"We are acutely aware of the water security challenge facing irrigators in the Boyne and Burnett River system," Ms Trad said in her answer.

But the Callide MP argued "The deputy premier (had) not given a clear answer whether she (would) commit giving access to funding that might provide better water security to irrigators in those valleys".

He said he would continue trying to make contact with federal counterparts and see where they stood on the issue.

"I don't think the future looks good for them (valley farmers/irrigators) at the moment," he said

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