LNP’s multibillion plan to drought-proof state
OPPOSITION Leader Deb Frecklington has thrown down the gauntlet one year before the state election, committing to an ambitious multibillion-dollar water scheme that could drought-proof parched western Queensland, generate power and open up a new food bowl, in an updated version of the controversial Bradfield Scheme.
The Courier-Mail can today reveal the plan, Ms Frecklington's biggest election commitment yet.
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The new version has been developed by distinguished former public servant Sir Leo Hielscher, who kickstarted the Queensland coal industry, and built ports and highways, and Sir Frank Moore, the father of Queensland tourism.
It has been estimated to cost $15 billion over a decade.
She said the Hell's Gate Dam proposal would be the start of the New Bradfield Scheme.
"Under the LNP's plan, the height of the Hell's Gate Dam would be almost doubled," she said.
"That would create the largest dam in Queensland - potentially twice the size of the Burdekin Falls Dam.
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"The new dam would draw water from the South Johnstone, Tully, Herbert and Burdekin rivers.
"While Bradfield's original plan required water to be pumped over the range, raising the Hell's Gate Dam would instead allow water to be piped through gravity-fed tunnels.
"This change will significantly increase the scheme's efficiency.
"Instead of consuming huge volumes of electricity, the New Bradfield Scheme would generate up to 2000 megawatts of green energy through a series of hydro-electric plants.
"It would easily be the biggest hydro-electric project this state has ever seen.
"And its water would enable a vast area of Queensland to be cultivated for the very first time.
"Crops could be raised on the blacksoil plains stretching south from Hughenden
"This new food bowl in the west would be around 80,000sq km in size."
Ms Frecklington said the project would also feed water into the Warrego River, and then into the Murray-Darling river system.
"The scheme would also benefit our greatest natural wonder - the Great Barrier Reef - by reducing nutrient run-off into the Coral Sea," she said.
The original Bradfield scheme was first mooted by prominent engineer John Bradfield - who has two highways named after him in NSW and Queensland in recognition for his work on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Brisbane's Story Bridge - in the 1930s.
It involved diverting water from the upper Tully, Herbert and Burdekin Rivers inland using tunnels, dams and pumps to create a huge irrigation area in central Queensland.
But it was abandoned before it could get off the ground.
Politicians from Bob Katter to Barnaby Joyce, Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Beattie have tried to revive it in the decades since.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson has also repeatedly tried to push the Federal Government to adopt the Bradfield scheme.
The LNP leader last night said she would be the one to do it, outlining her commitment to the droughtproofing plan at a dinner marking the 12-month count down to the October 31 State Election.
"Drought has been a concern for generations of Queenslanders," she told the crowd including Prime Minister Scott Morrison as well as Sir Leo and Sir Frank.
"Two great Queenslanders - Sir Leo Hielscher and Sir Frank Moore - have spent years looking at the problem.
"They have used their unrivalled experience to develop an entirely New Bradfield Scheme."
Ms Frecklington said an initial $20 million will be allocated to CSIRO to begin advanced planning on the project.
But she acknowledged the project itself would cost "billions".
Her commitment comes as Sunwater continues to release more than 105,000 megalitres from Paradise Dam in the drought-declared Bundaberg region.
The dam's operator Sunwater revealed an average of 1730 megalitres a day had been released, since late September with the dam dropping level to 54 per cent of capacity.
In total, more than 63,100 megalitres has been released since a report questioned the dam's safety in a flood.
Farmers are claiming that up to 400 megalitres a day is flowing into the ocean.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Deputy Jackie Trad have this week both said they were open to discussing a scaled-back, updated version of the Bradfield scheme with Prime Minister Scott Morrison as the State monitors 14 communities on the verge of running out of water.
The Prime Minister last night welcomed Ms Frecklington's commitment, which the National Water Grid Authority is also likely to be involved in.
"It's refreshing to see the LNP and Deb Frecklington committed to serious action on water security that would back Queensland families, farmers and businesses," he told The Courier-Mail.
"We're committed to building the water infrastructure Queensland needs. We just need a State Government that we can work with to get these projects moving.
"The Hughenden Irrigation Scheme, Emu Swamp Dam, Hells Gate Dam Scheme and Rookwood Weir, are all projects where we're committed to getting diggers on site and work under way right now."