LIQUID GOLD: Push to ensure Paradise water stays in the region
While the future of Paradise Dam is yet to be determined, the Bundaberg Regional Council is looking to safeguard the water that's left.
The council is urging all levels of government to rule out any option which may see water that's stored in Paradise Dam for the Bundaberg Irrigation scheme transferred to other schemes, outside the Bundaberg region.
Similar concern was raised previously in light of the Water supply requirements in the North and South Burnett report conducted by Jacobs.
Council's executive director of economic development and strategic projects Ben Artup said they acknowledged that both major political parties had made positive statements about repairing Paradise Dam or ruling in options that would restore the dam wall.
"Our concern is that water that's stored in Paradise Dam for the Bundaberg Irrigation Scheme could be transferred to other schemes outside of Bundaberg," he said.
"We could have a situation where they repair the dam but then the water's not there because the water that's reserved for the Bundaberg Irrigation Scheme is transferred to other irrigation schemes.
"Which means the water won't be there for the future of Bundaberg."
Mr Artup said they were calling on growers to participate in the demand survey to give them the data and evidence for the region's future water demand to then be taken to the State Government.
"It's critically important that water is stored there and reserved for our region for the future, so when we grow - when our macadamia industry grows and other crows continue to grow into the future like we're already seeing - that that water's there available for purchase in the future to underpin our economic security," he said.
Mr Artup said the council initially sent the survey out to 2500 land holders in the Bundaberg Irrigation Scheme and last week they had about 100 responses.
A Sunwater spokesperson said the Bundaberg Irrigation Water Demand Survey sought input from current and future irrigators in the region to better understand potential future water requirements.
"The results will inform a business case that is underway to examine options for Paradise Dam's remediation and future water security in and around Bundaberg," the spokespeson said.
"Sunwater operates the Bundaberg Water Supply Scheme in accordance with a Resource Operations Licence.
"Transferring water allocations out of the scheme would require legislative changes to the licence and the Burnett Basin Water Plan 2014, both of which are administered by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy."
Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers managing director Bree Grima said if ever there was one survey that the growers in this region need to fill out - this was it.
Farmers were urged to outline their future water needs in the Bundaberg Irrigation Water Demand Survey by NCEconomics.
According to Sunwater, NCEconomics was engaged by Building Queensland to undertake an assessment of future water demand and a broader economic assessment to inform the detailed business case for Paradise Dam.
The survey closed at 5pm today.
Ms Grima said they need the dam returned to full supply level, "there's no doubt about it".
"We've seen billions of dollars of investment put on hold in this region and that is because the plug was pulled on Paradise Dam last year," she said.
"The confidence that the growers have, that they can access more water, that they can grow and they can expand their operation, confidence has been severely reduced."
She said they consider there to be only one full supply level and that's at 300,000 megalitre capacity.
Ms Grima said the majority of growers in this region would probably have about 3-4 megalitres per hectare allocated to their area.
And some farmers are growing crops that are going to have higher water requirements as they mature.
"They're going to need anywhere between 8-10 megalitres per hectare, depending on the crop that they're growing," she said.
"They need confidence to know that the investment they've made on those young trees, on setting up the blocks and supporting the local businesses in town to set up the irrigation, to employ the agronomist, they need the confidence to know they've got the water to sustain that crop to get it to full maturity."
While the region's drought declared and hasn't seen significant rainfall for "quite some time", Ms Grima said they've also seen a reduction in groundwater aquifers and the water in the dam.
"So we need to ensure that we are using as much water as possible within the entire catchment, within the entire scheme to ensure it's available to producers," she said.
"These are producers that have current, vibrant industries, we're not talking about an industry that has potential, we're talking about an industry that is ready and raring to go and we are currently doing so.
"We grow five of the major crops in Australia, we're the largest producer of those crops; we need as much water as possible to continue that support that we've got of those industries."
She said we're the largest growing region by size of avocados; the largest growing region of macadamias; we have 75 per cent of the nation's sweet potato production; the largest chilli company in Australia; and we're the largest growing region for passionfruit.
"We're a huge producer of vegetables and leafy greens, we like to say that we can supply your entire meal from start to finish and every letter of the alphabet," she said.
WHERE THE CANDIDATES STAND
The NewsMail asked Burnett candidates if they would commit to ruling out any future plans to transfer water from Paradise and the Bundaberg Irrigation Scheme to another scheme.
See their responses below:
Independent candidate Ric Glass said Childers farmers were already worried they won't be able to have enough water at 70 per cent right now.
"Many farmers in this region have young macadamia orchards; and are all worried how they will keep those trees alive and get them through to maturity," he said.
"Farmers growing, sugarcane, peanuts and opportunity forage crops are concerned they won't be able to plant opportunity crops in the future if the announced allocation becomes less reliable.
"I want to ensure Paradise Dam continues to provide long-term water security and underpin economic prosperity in Bundaberg and the Burnett, I want Paradise Dam restored to 300,000 megalitres.
"The cost of not restoring Paradise Dam, to the Bundaberg Region, would be approximately $2.4 billion over the next 30 years. This is the potential cost to the Queensland economy of a permanent lowering of Paradise Dam by up to five metres.
"There is a report which shows that not restoring the Dam wall will compromise future investment and income-generation from high-valued crops, such as macadamias and avocadoes.
"I have read these articles and these are what concerns me."
Labor candidate for Burnett Kerri Morgan said the Palaszczuk Labor Government understood the importance of water security.
"As the Minister has said repeatedly, he guarantees the yield from Paradise Dam will be maintained for the region's growers," Ms Morgan said.
Incumbent Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett said "fixing Paradise Dam has been my number one priority from day one".
"The LNP will work with international experts to stabilise Paradise Dam and undertake the work required to restore its former capacity, guaranteeing farmers throughout the region long-term water and economic security.
"An LNP Government will always put the safety of local residents first while working to fix Paradise Dam for the benefit of the entire Wide Bay Burnett community.
"As well as fixing Paradise Dam the LNP will increase the regions water storages through the two weirs - Cooranga and Barlil weirs - in the Wide Bay - Burnett.
"The new Cooranga and Barlil weirs are a key part of the LNP's plan to double the value of Queensland's agricultural output by 2035."
"Our farmers deserve better than what they're currently getting under this anti-regions Labor Government and that is why the LNP has also promised to cut the cost of water for growers by almost 20 per cent and pump $15 million in savings back to the state's producers.
"We have a bold plan to grow agriculture in Queensland."
Katter's Australian Party Burnett candidate Paul Hudson said Paradise Dam was not negotiable.
"Paradise Dam must be restored to full capacity. In addition, there shall be no compromises, no changes, no deals, nothing that sees any transfers of water out of Paradise Dam," he said.
"Farmers have invested blood sweat and tears and a lot of money on the understanding that he dam will be available at full capacity.
"The future of farming in our region depends on a plentiful and secure supply of water.
"This is not negotiable."
He said it was time to stop the endless procrastination.
"We need to be done with endless planning and analysis options, and get on with actually rebuilding the dam," he said.
"The Rizzo report makes it very clear that the dam is easily repairable.
"I spoke with Dr Paul Rizzo on the phone and he assured me the job is not difficult. It's time for action, not more talk and studies. Lets get it done."