WATER PLAN: Half of Rookwood Weir’s water to go to farmers
AT LEAST half the water from Rookwood Weir will be allocated for Central Queensland farmers, under a proposed plan out for consultation today.
The Queensland Government said Rookwood Weir could provide up to 76,000ML of medium priority water or 50,000ML of high priority water, underpinning agricultural growth and supply industrial and urban water in CQ.
The proposals released today establish new water trading zones for Rookwood Weir, new water allocation groups and measures to ensure that 50 per cent of water from the weir is allocated for agricultural use.
The draft amendment also ensures existing agricultural and urban water users and environmental flows are protected in the lower Fitzroy.
Consultation runs for six weeks and the revised water plan will be in place around the time construction of the weir starts next year.
Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said the proposed plan would put the water management mechanics in place to drive the region’s growth.
“Queensland has an economic plan for recovery with a $50 billion infrastructure guarantee, including Rookwood Weir,” Dr Lynham said.
“The Government knows that there’s an appetite for Rookwood Weir and this water will drive economic recovery and jobs in the Fitzroy region.
“We now have two road projects completed, another underway and a major contractor signed up and raring to go. Local farmers are positive, local businesses are positive and local people are working on this project.”
In recent weeks Sunwater received significant interest in future water allocations from CQ farmers in its first two rounds of Expressions of Interests but no formal allocations have been made yet.
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga encouraged CQ water users and the community to get involved in finalising the proposals, contained in a draft amendment to the Fitzroy Basin water plan.
“Sunwater has had a really positive response from farmers expressing interest in the first tranche of water being offered,” Ms Lauga said.
“The proposals released today set aside at least half the water for agricultural use.
“That’s how we maximise the growth opportunities for agriculture and industry and the local jobs that will flow from this development.”
Rockhampton MP Barry O’Rourke said the $352 million Rookwood Weir project had already delivered jobs on road projects.
“Rookwood Weir will meet our region’s anticipated water needs for the next three decades,” Mr O’Rourke said.
“It is delivering jobs now, more jobs when weir construction starts, and then further opportunity for economic growth, investment in the region and agricultural growth.
“These proposals are the first step in administering the additional water the weir will bring.”
Last week Sunwater released drone footage showing that the 25 construction workers employed by the Rookwood Weir project had been hard at work on the $12.5 million Riverslea bridge upgrade.
CQ company McCosker Contracting, along with Australian company Lendlease Engineering were also recently named by Sunwater as the major construction partners to deliver the long awaited water project.
Expected to create up to 100 jobs, the construction of Rookwood Weir was scheduled to start by April 2021, and ready for wet commissioning in January 2024.
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry responded to the latest announcement saying it was a shame the Queensland Government was celebrating given that they had short changed farmers, land owners and primary producers.
“The original design of Rookwood Weir at 76,000 megalitres of high priority water allocated 42,000 megalitres for agriculture use. Now, the new design allows for 25,000 megalitres of water for farmers,” Ms Landry said.
“The amount of water they have downsized from Rookwood Weir was directly the additional amount they allocated for agriculture use in the original design.
“Like everyone, our farmers have to deal with added financial pressures of COVID-19. Now they have to deal with the uncertainty of the availability and the cost of water they need to get access to.”
Flynn MP Ken O’Dowd said he was disappointed in the volume of water provided by Rookwood Weir.
Another problem he raised was the state government allowing water licences to be purchased by speculators not just farmers.
“When applying for water allocations with Sunwater there are many unknowns around the exact description of what is being purchased,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“Questions can’t be answered until the water plan for the Fitzroy River is completed. People who participate in the second round of tenders in 2022 will benefit from the information to be presented upon the completion of the plan.
“It seems to me that a tender process to sell potentially many lots of the same item (water) for potentially many different prices is very inequitable. Other water sales around the state are for known dollar values and this would be a much fairer way in my opinion.
“I have spoken to farmers who feel they are buying blind but have no choice if they want allocations.”
He encouraged all farmers to be part of the consultation process to prevent a “biased result”.
Mr O’Dowd was worried that the Queensland Government had opened the door to significant water price increases for farmers by approving unfair ‘cost-reflective’ water pricing.
“The inclusion of dam safety and flood mitigation expenses will see costs passed directly onto irrigating farmers,” he said.
Consultation is open until 5pm, September 28, 2020 and include video conferences, phone meetings, as well as the usual online submissions, to meet COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
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