Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bill Byrne at the Dalby Saleyards on Wednesday.



Photo Elouise Quinlivan / Dalby Herald
Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bill Byrne at the Dalby Saleyards on Wednesday. Photo Elouise Quinlivan / Dalby Herald Elouise Quinlivan

Will 'bush champion' Byrne fast track the Rookwood Weir?

IF NEWLY appointed State Minister for Rural Economic Development Bill Byrne was feeling any added pressure to fast track the controversial Rookwood Weir project, he wasn't showing it on the weekend.

The lengthy time-frame for completing a business case (late 2017) for the $300m project has been a source of frustration for Capricornia MP Michelle Landry (and other stakeholders).

But if she thought Mr Byrne's move into the Rural Economic Development and Agriculture portfolios last week might motivate him to deliver it earlier, she was mistaken.

Mr Byrne said his priority was to grow the economy and create jobs, but he refused to rush the Rookwood process.

"I won't be drawn into setting artificial time-lines for a body of work that must be thorough and precise," Mr Byrne said when he was asked if he would move to increase resources for the study.

"There must be a thorough and comprehensive assessment of the project and that is under way. It is not a question of resources."

"This government will invest taxpayers' money in this project, with my full support, if it stacks up."

He said Rookwood Weir was being assessed by an independent body (Building Qld) and as Minister for Agriculture he would be having discussions with the Deputy Premier and her staff about "making a thorough business case as quickly as possible".

Lower Fitzroy River Infrastructure Project, Rookwood Weir.
Lower Fitzroy River Infrastructure Project, Rookwood Weir. SunWater and Gladstone Area Wate

AgForce general president Grant Maudsley welcomed Mr Byrne back to the Minister for Agriculture position but warned he would need to "hit the ground running to bed down live issues in his new portfolio".

"We urge Minister Byrne to champion the needs of people in the bush both publicly and behind the closed doors of Cabinet to ensure agriculture continues to prosper into the future," he said.

Mr Byrne acknowledged Mr Maudsley's words and "the previous strength of our working relationship".

"I will assure him I am keen to get to business right away on the issues he has identified as top of his agenda," he said with biosecurity preparedness a priority.

Mr Byrne, who has a military background, insisted he had the credentials to do the "champion of the bush" job well.

"I have served previously as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries as a member of a government that has already done more than any previous administration to support producers and our rural and regional communities through drought and provided a record budget for the portfolio," he said.

"I have a solid working relationship with the key stakeholders and I'm looking forward to working with them again.

"In my previous career I acquired extensive experience in land management at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.

"That included overseeing term control of feral animals, invasive weeds, as well as fire management and conservation, using practice techniques from CSIRO matured and developed over two decades".

"This gave me a unique insight into the issues graziers and other producers face on their land," he said.

As Minister for Rural Economic Development he said he would draw on his experience as chair of Regional Development Australia for Fitzroy and the Central West.

"I established relationships across Central Queensland and beyond, driving projects to grow the economy and create jobs," he said.

"That is the Palaszczuk Government's top priority and I will be engaging with people and harvesting good ideas across our state."

Rookwood site  Photo: Contributed
Rookwood site Photo: Contributed


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