Both political sides striving to find Rookwood Weir funds
UPDATE: 1:30PM: THE Rookwood Weir political football has been punted deep into the Federal Government's half today with the public release of the long awaited business case assessing the economic viability for the project.
The business case, which was launched online today by Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham, was packed with details regarding the $352 million project which promised to deliver water to the region within two years of construction.
At today's Rockhampton press conference, Dr Lynham, Keppel MP Brittany Lauga and Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke revealed that the Rookwood Weir project was not viable if the federal government were unwilling to add more funding to their existing $130 million dollar commitment.
"I'd encourage everyone in Central Queensland to get online, have a look at this business case," Dr Lynham said.
"This weir has great benefit for Rockhampton, Gladstone and Livingstone Shire."
He said Rookwood Weir would provide an invaluable 42000M/L for agriculture in this region but according to the present costings, farmers would not be able to afford the water on offer.
"Building Queensland has assessed all the facts in its detailed business case and says that the project is not commercial with the Commonwealth offer of $130 million," he said.
"To be commercially viable, it will require substantially increased funding from the federal government.
"Without a fair contribution from Canberra, the price of the water will be too high for farmers and other potential users."
Dr Lynham said he had already written to Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud today and called upon CQ's federal members Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and Senator Matthew Canavan to speak with their federal counterpart to reconsider its financial commitment in light of the latest, up-to-date costings for the project.
"Go back to your bosses in Canberra with this business case and bring more funds to the table," he said.
"As I've said all along, we need to make the right decision by Queensland taxpayers, including CQ taxpayers.
"We'll all know exactly where we stand, and only then can the state make a call on the project."
He requested that petty politicking be set aside in favour of a bipartisan approach towards negotiating an increased funding agreement between state and federal governments.
Dr Lynham would not be drawn on a ball park figure for how much the Queensland Government was willing to contribute.
If the federal government were to come back with an increased funding offer of another $46 million, taking their total to $176 million, the pressure would be back on the Queensland Government to match it to ensure there was a 50:50 commitment on the project.
When asked about a 50:50 arrangement Mrs Lauga said that it wasn't necessarily the case and other infrastructure projects like the Bruce Highway operated on a 80:20 arrangement.
However she refused to detail what she or the government thought was a fair state contribution to such a project.
Mrs Lauga stuck to the government line and said everyone had to wait for the federal government to detail what they would do to advance the project.
"We need to work together and we don't need negotiations to be run through the media," she said.
"The business case made it clear the project would create jobs and would be wonderful for the agricultural sector.
"The federal government government is going to need to include a lot more funding in this project for local farmers to be able to afford this water."
Both Mrs Lauga and Mr O'Rourke encouraged the Member for Capricornia and Senator Canavan to work with them to progress the issue.
"This is an issue that's best resolved together for the benefit of all of our constituents and the region and not to get into the public debate," Mr O'Rourke said.
Senator Canavan spoke to The Morning Bulletin driving towards Toowoomba where he was due to host a press conference on the Rookwood Weir business case.
"We want to get the price down to meet the market, they think through this business case that will require more money from us to do that," Senator Canavan said.
"We've got more than $7 billion to spend on water infrastructure so of course we'll consider any application from the Queensland government.
"Let's work it out, let's just do it, I'm sick of all the to and fro."
Senator Canavan said this includes:
- $500 million Water Infrastructure Development Fund from which the federal government has already committed $130 million to kick start Rookwood Weir.
- $2 billion concessional loan fund for water infrastructure administered by the Regional Investment Corporation.
- $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility which can be used to build water infrastructure.
He had strong willingness to progress the project as quickly as possible citing his duty of care to both Rockhampton and Gladstone whose water supply was vulnerable after only one hypothetical missed wet season.
"The Building Queensland business case, released by the State Government today, demonstrates that Rockhampton could run out of water in less than a year and that Gladstone risks running out of water this decade," Senator Canavan said.
"As the business case says, further analysis demonstrates storage levels in Rockhampton could fall from full to below minimum operating level well under nine months."
Senator Canavan said the region's growing industrial sector also required a more secure water supply to sure up a strong future.
"Modelling commissioned in by the Gladstone Area Water Board in 2013, as part of the development of its 2016 Strategic Water Plan, estimated a 10 per cent probability of additional water capacity being required by 2020 and a 50 per cent probability by 2030," he said.
"If Rockhampton were to run out of water the business case mentions that water would need to be trucked from Awoonga dam at Gladstone. Previous reports from the Gladstone Area Water Board question whether this would be even technically feasible."
The senator spoke with great respect about Dr Lynham saying he was very supportive about establishing a dialogue to find a timely way forward for the project.
Senator Canavan said the easiest way forward would be for the Queensland Government to put forward a detailed application requiring an equal contribution from both state and federal governments.
"I can't tick off on an extra $40 million over the phone after a business case has been out two hours but I've spoken to Barnaby (Joyce - the National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister) and we're willing to consider 50:50 arrangement on whatever the cost comes out at," he said.
"If they don't want to put up their 50 per cent, then it's a lot harder, we'll have to go away and think about what we can do.
"We're open for business on water, we're open to their application if it's 50:50 and we'll do everything we can to secure the water supply for Central Queensland."
Senator Canavan acknowledged that the economics of the Rookwood Weir depended on the willingness of farmers to use the water to increase agriculture.
"The business case shows that if the water is used to increase food production in the Fitzroy, the weir will make money. The Coalition government backs Australian farming and think that we have the opportunity to make Central Queensland a food bowl for our nation. Let's now just get on with it," he said.
Rockhampton Regional Council welcomed the release of the long-awaited Rookwood Weir Business Case.
Mayor Margaret Strelow said council was now working its way through the report and, while it would take some time to digest, Council was encouraged that open and frank discussions could now take place between all levels of Government to get this critical project underway.
"The further development of the abundant water resource we have in the Fitzroy is something that has been on Council's agenda since the construction of the Barrage decades ago," Cr Strelow said.
"The opportunity is there now and it is critical that all stakeholders work together to deliver this resource for our Region to ensure its long-term water security and drive economic growth in our agricultural sector.
"This project would deliver another 76,000 mega litres of water annually across Central Queensland and is critical to the future water supply security and economic growth of our Region."
She said it was unfortunate but not surprising to see the cost had risen since the initial assessment.
"But if there's one thing we've learned, it's that construction will always cost more the longer you delay - that's why we need to grab this opportunity now with both hands while it is within reach," Cr Strelow said.
"We're encouraged by comments from both State and Federal Governments regarding funding of this project and Council will eagerly await the outcomes of these discussions as they will play an important part in our Region's future."
Highlights from the business case include:
- The weir could add 76,000 megalitres of water for agricultural production along the Fitzroy River, as well as an eventual back-up supply for Gladstone, Rockhampton and Livingstone Shire.
- The region has potential for irrigated agricultural production, including high value agriculture such as citrus, grapes and vegetables, as well as cattle feedlots.
- The project would create 100 construction jobs and increased agricultural production would generate more direct jobs.
- For the project to be economically viable, water would need to be used to boost agricultural production substantially.
- The water would be available within two years of construction starting.
BREAKING 10.30AM: THE true cost of building Rookwood Weir has finally been made public today, $352 million, which was $92 million more than the initial $260 million estimate.
Speaking at Rockhampton's Riverside Park, Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham has announced the latest development in government consideration of the $352 million Rookwood Weir proposal.
Dr Lynham foreshadowed last December that the estimated cost of $260m to build Rookwood Weir was based upon a 10-year-old Environmental Impact Statement and the actual build cost would have increased over the years.
READ: Rookwood Weir costs set to blow out over $260mThat has raised questions about how much it will cost to build Rookwood and who will pay the cost difference.
In releasing the business case for the weir, Dr Lynham said the Federal Government's commitment of $130 million for Rookwood Weir was less than half of what was required to build the project.
"Building Queensland has assessed all the facts in its detailed business case and says the project is not commercial with the Commonwealth offer of $130m," Dr Lynham said.
"It shows quite clearly that without a fair contribution from Canberra, the price of the water will be too high for farmers and other potential users.
"The Member for Capricornia has talked about $260m. It's time for Central Queensland's federal parliamentarians to step up to the plate and secure extra dollars from their Canberra bosses."
More to come