Paradise Dam earlier this year. Photo: Mike Knott.
Paradise Dam earlier this year. Photo: Mike Knott.

WATER SCHEME: Pitt peeved by opinion piece on Paradise Dam

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt has traded jabs with the Bundaberg Regional Council over water security issues.

Mr Pitt's spoke out against the notion raised in a recent opinion piece by Bundaberg Regional Council's strategic projects and economic development executive director Ben Artup on the council's website Bundaberg Now that a water feasibility study was being "secretively conducted" in the North and South Burnett.

But council says its "puzzled" by the response and would continue its advocacy on the issue.

The Water supply requirements in the North and South Burnett strategic business case by conducted by Jacobs identified issues that could be addressed in the North and South Burnett Regional Council Areas.

The study recommended that a preliminary business case should be undertaken to further refine and assess the identified long list of options, two of which included running a pipeline from Paradise Dam.

Mr Pitt said there had been no secrecy about the water feasibility study and claims to suggest otherwise were "simply false".

"The study was announced in November 2018 and information on the progress of the study is easily accessible online," he said.

"It's disappointing that the articles published on the Bundaberg Now website give the impression that this is the final report, whereas this is the first phase in the feasibility study. "There is still a preliminary business case and a detailed business case to follow.

"The Strategic Business Case also clearly states as there is not yet a decision on the future of Paradise Dam and 'if the viability of an option is entirely reliant on water supply from Paradise Dam, that will impact on the assessment in this study'."

Mr Pitt again called on the State Government to repair, restore or replace Paradise Dam to its full capacity to give the growers in the Bundaberg region water security.

Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd, shared Mr Pitt's disappointment and said the comments on the ratepayer-funded news website were simply wrong and an apology should be issued.

But Bundaberg Regional Council chief executive Steve Johnston said water security shouldn't be used as a political football.

He said the article didn't criticise the Federal Government and the response from local MPs was puzzling.

"The opinion piece raised important issues in relation to water security and investor certainty for the Bundaberg Region," he said.

"It stated the truth that federal funding paid for the Jacobs Report.

"The report lists several options, including the diversion of water from Paradise Dam to Coalstoun Lakes, which would be to the detriment of Bundaberg region irrigators.

"We want those options to be categorically ruled out."

Mr Johnston said the council's advocacy position was to reinstate water that's been lost from Paradise Dam for use by Bundaberg region irrigators to ensure long-term economic prosperity.

"Any diversion of water from Paradise Dam to other regions risks jeopardising investment," he said.

Mr Johnston said council would continue to state its advocacy positions on Bundaberg Now and other platforms.

In Mr Artup's opinion piece, he said any decision to transfer water out of the Bundaberg scheme "shouldn't be decided by whoever runs the best clandestine political campaign, supported by a secretive study commissioned off an engineering firm".

"With roughly 100,000 megalitres of unsold water allocated in Paradise Dam for the Bundaberg scheme, if this water was to be reallocated and sold in any other water scheme3, then the State Government stands to make a significant financial windfall, payable via a dividend from Sunwater," he said.

"And this is exactly what the secretively conducted North and South Burnett study is examining.

"It is explicitly building the case for the State Government and Sunwater to reallocate water held in the Bundaberg scheme for use in places like the Burnett, Coalstoun Lakes and Mundubbera."

The Bundaberg Water Supply Scheme supplies water to farmlands and communities in Burnett, Kolan and Isis Shire.

The scheme is made up of two sub-schemes: the Kolan River sub‐scheme supplies water to areas north of the Burnett River, with the Burnett River sub‐scheme supplying to areas south of the river.

A SunWater spokesperson said urban water supply is supplied to Bundaberg, Childers and Gin Gin while industrial water is provided for various enterprises including sugar mills.

Irrigation water is supplied for crops including sugar cane, tomatoes, rock melons, watermelons, capsicum, zucchini, beans, macadamia nuts and avocados.

The scheme has than 600km of channel and pipeline distributing supplies to more than 1,000 properties.

"The scheme consists of seven distinct channel systems that supplement or replace demand for groundwater in the district," the spokesperson said.

"Areas supplied by the channel and pipeline network include Abbotsford, Avondale, Bingera, Gin Gin, Gooburrum, Isis, Kolan and Woongarra.

"SunWater has no channel system or pipeline infrastructure upstream of Paradise Dam.

"Water supplied in this area tends to be to customers located on or close to the ponded area of the dam or the Burnett River."

The Bundaberg Water Supply Scheme Storages include: Fred Haigh Dam, Bucca Weir, Kolan Barrage, Paradise Dam, Ned Churchward Weir and Ben Anderson Barrage.

Mr O'Dowd said the whole idea of obtaining Federal Government funds for the feasibility study, was to investigate options that will secure water for farmers in the North and South Burnett regions.

"This process was started some four years ago and now we have the report that the councils, farmers, SunWater along with the Queensland State and Federal Government's require," he said.

"Once these projects are prioritised, scoped and costed, my personal opinion is that I would like to see a weir built on the Boyne river and irrigation supply to Coalstoun Lakes and use the existing pipeline from Wivenhoe dam to servicing the Tarong power station."

Regarding the Bundaberg Water Supply Scheme, the SunWater spokesperson said in the 1960s two things contributed to a growing water need.

"The amount of cane being farmed doubled as world demand for sugar soared, and three serious droughts in 1964, 1965 and 1969," the spokesperson said.

"As a result, the underground water source that agriculture in the region had primarily relied upon, dwindled and salinity started to rise.

"In 1970 the Queensland Government adopted a proposal for a two‐phase water supply scheme for the Bundaberg district.

"Construction began that year, with the second phase completed in 1993."

 

MORE STORIES

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Dam politics: Will trouble in Paradise hit polls?

 

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