ROOKWOOD CLASH: Pollies caught up in water disagreement
After locking horns countless times over the years regarding Central Queensland’s long-awaited Rookwood Weir project, relations appear to be souring between the State and Federal Government over claims about the project’s water availability.
Speaking at a press conference on the Fitzroy River bank on Thursday, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and Agricultural Minster David Littleproud took swipes at the Queensland Government, quoting water availability figures and accusing them of being “hellbent” on taking water away from the Rookwood Weir – a claim angrily denied by Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham.
Earlier that morning, Ms Landry said she had been at a function talking to graziers about Rookwood Weir.
“Sunwater’s been sending out brochures about that and the graziers are very concerned about the water levels seem to be dropping again,” Ms Landry said.
“So initially (there was) 76,000 megalitres of high priority water for Rookwood Weir, then they’ve told us 72,000 megalitres of medium priority water which means that the farmers won’t get the water all the time.
“Now it looks like they’re dropping it even further. The amount that was paid aside for agriculture seems to have dropped down to 33,000 megalitres of medium priority water, that was originally 44,000 megalitres.
She demanded to know what the State Government was doing about this.
“It is an absolute disgrace. This project has just about tripled in price, they’re not starting it until next year, the planning is not finished yet and they won’t have that finished till next year,” she said.
“Water is most important commodity that we could possibly have in this nation and we have a State Government that seems hell bent on stopping every water project in this nation.
“We will certainly be asking more questions about that.”
Mr Littleproud agreed with Ms Landry’s thoughts on Rookwood Weir.
“The story of agriculture is ‘just add water’ and here in Queensland, the Queensland Government seems hellbent on taking water away from agriculture, whether it’s Paradise Dam, or now it seems as though they are going to take water away from Rookwood Weir.
“We’ve got to empower our producers to make money, to employ people. Governments don’t do that, it’s actually businesses, it’s farmers.
“This is an opportunity for the State Government to put the shoulder to the wheel, get on with the job and get some (Caterpillar) D8’s and excavators moving and start building this thing.”
Dr Lynham said the Member for Capricornia “needed to check her facts before making bogus claims with figures plucked from thin air”.
“Let me set the record straight: We have said the Rookwood Weir can provide up to 76,000ML of medium priority water or 50,000ML of high priority water,” Dr Lynham said.
“No matter the mix, there will be a significant and majority component of water available for agriculture.
“We have shown our commitment to the project by putting the money on the table and the workers on the ground.”
SunWater has provided information about the irrigation opportunities that come from Rookwood Weir to nearly 700 landholders and potential investors.
In the first tender, SunWater was making up to 30,000 megalitres of medium priority water available for agricultural and non-urban use.
That first tender will be out to market until July 21, and SunWater have advised they have already received strong interest.
Their second tender would make at least 7500 megalitres of smaller medium priority water available.
The next milestone for the weir project was the announcement of the preferred construction contractor in late July.
The final design and approval was expected in September.
Early construction works were expected between October and November.
In-river and main construction works were expected after the wet season in April 2021.
“If the member for Capricornia wants to see things move faster than I suggest she gets on the phone to her Canberra colleagues and arrange a flow of Federal funds,” Dr Lynham said.
“In fact, any federal money rather than talk for a water infrastructure project in Queensland would be appreciated.
“But right now, the State is getting on with the job of building a $352 million weir that will deliver thousands of megalitres of water and jobs and growth for CQ.”