Growers take ‘dam half-empty’ position

 

ANGRY avocado, sweet potato and macadamia farmers in Bundaberg who invested millions of dollars to expand fear they are now at risk because of a dramatic flushing of water from Paradise Dam.

With the dam set to be reduced to 42 per cent, farmers have lampooned the State Government for failing to guarantee their future irrigation needs after a shock decision to reduce the dam over safety concerns.

Resources, Mines and Energy Minister Anthony Lynham announced this week more than 100,000 megalitres would be flushed from the dam over 10 weeks, significantly reducing the capacity of the 300,000Ml dam near Bundaberg.

About 80,000Ml will be made available to growers, but some do not need the water during their current seasonal cycle. It is feared most of it will go out to sea.

In May the dam spillway will be lowered by 5m, and there is speculation the dam could be permanently lowered.

Irrigators, who made investments because of the dam, say they now fear they will not have enough water in future years because of plans to dramatically reduce the dam's capacity.

Sweet potato, sugarcane and macadamia farmer Dean Akers, 51, said growers had no problem with the dam being fixed, but the Government needed to ensure it had a back-up plan for their water needs.

Farmers pay for their water from Paradise Dam, which was built in 2005 and drove significant economic development in the region.

 

Annastacia Palaszczuk
Annastacia Palaszczuk

 

Many farmers took the risk of growing macadamia trees, which take 10 years before a return on investment.

"We need consistency of supply because we made business decisions based on that 300,000 megalitres,'' Mr Akers said.

"We can't turn back now because we are in too deep.

"There will be job losses and billions of dollars for the Queensland and Australian Government's if this isn't fixed."

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said certainty was needed.

"According to the Australian Local Government Association State of the Regions report, in 2017 the Wide Bay region had the lowest disposable income per capita in Australia at just $34,261," he said.

"And the Queensland State Labor Government wants to make the people I represent even poorer by taking away their future prosperity.

"Water is wealth."

Dr Lynham said the Government would put safety first, but wanted to reassure producers that their water entitlements were secure until at least 2021.

"Of the water being released, 25,000 megalitres owned by customers is being stored for them downstream in the Ned Churchward Weir and Ben Anderson Barrage,'' he said.