Rookwood Weir project reaches major milestones
THE YEAR 2021 is shaping up to be the year of Rookwood Weir after a huge update was provided by the Queensland Government following an inspection of the project site on Thursday morning.
Located 66km southwest of Rockhampton on the Fitzroy River, the $352.2 million water infrastructure project promises to provide 76,000ML water underpinning agricultural, industrial and urban growth while driving new economic and employment opportunities for the region.
Jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments, and delivered in partnership with Sunwater, the Rookwood Weir will provide for more than 200 jobs during construction – with at least 140 of those to be sourced from Central Queensland.
Additionally, 95 per cent of project costs will be spent in Queensland.
In-river construction is scheduled to start by April 2021 (after the wet season), and finish in 2023.
Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick, Minister for Water Glenn Butcher and Rockhampton MP Barry O’Rourke were joined at the construction site by other key stakeholders to deliver the heartening news that progress was accelerating and milestones were being achieved for Rookwood Weir, after it had been marred by controversy and slow progress over the years.
They highlighted two key developments for the project – Sunwater and construction partners had received approval to enter Stage 2 of construction, and the first stage of the water sales process had been completed.
Project’s second stage unlocks local jobs
Delivery of Rookwood Weir will switch into high gear with at least 140 local jobs created after Sunwater and its construction partners received Queensland Government approval to enter Stage 2.
Treasurer and Minister for Investment Cameron Dick confirmed the next stage’s funding was locked in.
“Rookwood Weir is transformational water infrastructure that will deliver hundreds of jobs during and after construction,” Mr Dick said.
“It’s now time to get more boots on the ground to help the region build back better following the global COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Treasurer said water from the weir would underpin economic and agricultural growth in the region, boosting employment and supporting communities.
“Our government has been committed to Rookwood Weir from the project’s infancy because we understand its importance to central Queensland when it comes to job creation and the region’s agricultural industry at large,” he said.
“It will enable the increase of irrigated agricultural production in the lower Fitzroy, giving farmers greater opportunity to expand and put on more workers.”
Minister Butcher said construction of the weir was already providing benefits to the local economy – with more on the horizon as the project progressed.
“Preliminary on-site works have started, with a range of activities to be undertaken before in-river construction begins in April 2021,”he said.
“We already have 24 local workers engaged in tasks covering surveying, environmental science, cultural heritage, drilling and construction.
“This number will continue to grow as we head into 2021 and activities at the weir site ramp up.
“This will provide great opportunities for quality local jobs, with many opportunities for local businesses to supply goods and services to the project.”
Gladstone-based McCosker Contracting and Acciona Australia have committed to sourcing at least 140 construction jobs locally – with apprentices and trainees comprising 15 per cent of the workforce.
More than 270 Central Queensland businesses have already registered their details as potential service providers on the project’s dedicated web registry rookwoodweir.icn.org.au.
The businesses include machinery operators, labourers, plumbing and electrical contractors, catering, office suppliers.
A number of work packages are expected to be released in early-2021.
Sunwater CEO Glenn Stockton said significant progress had been made on three road projects supporting the weir.
“Two upgrades – to Thirsty Creek Road and the Gogango intersection – have already been completed, while construction to deliver a new bridge at Riverslea crossing is on track for completion in mid-2021,” Mr Stockton said.
Rookwood Weir stage one water sales process complete
The $352.2 million Rookwood Weir project celebrated a significant milestone on Thursday with the successful completion of the first stage of the water tender process.
Mr Butcher said Central Queensland workers and businesses stood to benefit after two bidders secured 30,000 megalitres of water for agricultural use.
“This is another key milestone for a critical infrastructure project that will enhance water security and provide economic opportunities across the region,” Mr Butcher said.
“We know there is an appetite for Rookwood Weir and this water will drive economic recovery and jobs in the Fitzroy region.
“The water will allow the successful tenderers, Rural Funds Management and Argyle Capital Partners, to pursue expansion plans along the Fitzroy River – and that means local jobs and flow-on impacts in the supply chain for local businesses.”
Mr Butcher said the successful bidders had submitted business plans highlighting how their use of the water would support employment and business opportunities in Central Queensland.
Rural Funds Management chief operating officer Tim Sheridan said the company intended to establish 5,000 hectares of macadamia orchards, with the largest plantings along the Fitzroy River west of Rockhampton.
“The availability of reliable water is critical to our development plans, which will require a significant local workforce. We will also need access to goods and services from local suppliers in the region,” Mr Sheridan said.
Argyle Capital Partners managing director Kim Morison said the water would allow the business to expand its existing irrigated agriculture operations in the Fitzroy Basin.
“This water enables us to build additional areas of high value permanent crops with our local farming partnerships,” Mr Morison said.
“The development will create additional farm employment and opportunities across a range of industries including irrigation, transport, processing and export packing businesses.”
Sunwater CEO Glenn Stockton said additional water was available for local irrigators as part the second stage of the tender process.
A minimum of 7,500 megalitres will be released in the second stage, with irrigators able to apply for lots of up to 500 megalitres.
“There has been considerable interest in this tranche, which is aimed at smaller operations that need water to expand or diversify their operations,” Mr Stockton said.
“The second tender is expected to be held in 2022.
“Water is an essential ingredient for developing our regional economies.
“The delivery of Rookwood Weir will give Central Queensland farmers – both large and small – new opportunities to grow and create jobs for Queenslanders.”
Federal members call for affordable water sales
Responding to the completion of the first stage of the water sales process, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and Flynn MP Ken O’Dowd, have called upon the Queensland Government to ensure water prices were affordable for farmers, primary producers and graziers seeking to purchase water from Rookwood Weir.
Ms Landry said the construction of Rookwood Weir and water sales were progressing but questions still needed to be answered on the final price of water.
“Rookwood Weir was always envisaged to be a transformational water project for Central Queensland,” Ms Landry said.
“The issue of affordability with water from Rookwood Weir is raised with me almost as often of the reduced capacity of the weir. It needs to be addressed as a priority.
“If the Queensland Government refuses to build Rookwood Weir to the full 76,000 megalitres of high-priority water as originally promised, at the very least, they need to ensure water remains affordable for the farmers who wish to purchase water.”
Mr O’Dowd said the Queensland Government needed to do the right thing by CQ’s farmers.
“While I think most Central Queenslanders would welcome the progress of Rookwood Weir so far, the price and availability of water from the weir still causes great uncertainty amongst farmers, graziers and primary producers,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“The Federal Government has assisted the progression of Rookwood Weir at every opportunity, and we respectfully ask the Queensland Government to help ensure water prices are reasonable for Central Queensland farmers.”
Rookwood Weir Fast Facts
- Full supply level: 45.5m Australian Height Datum (AHD)
- Full supply volume (FSL): 65,402 ML for blended use – medium priority (MP) and high • priority (HP) – subject to final design.
- Yield at FSL: 76,000 ML of MP – subject to final design.
- Impoundment length: approximately 55km
- Minimum operating level: 37.0m AHD
- Weir length: 370m
- Height above riverbed: approximately 15.5m