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Farmers say Labor’s dam decision still far from Paradise

Farmers who rely on Bundaberg’s Paradise Dam could still be in limbo for another five years despite assurances from Labor’s federal and Queensland governments that they will restore the structure to its full capacity.

Oct 27, 2022, updated Oct 27, 2022
Local federal member and former water minister during the Morrison Government’s term Keith Pitt  said the timing of the Paradise Dam project was vague. (Image: Sunwater)

Local federal member and former water minister during the Morrison Government’s term Keith Pitt said the timing of the Paradise Dam project was vague. (Image: Sunwater)

Shock revelations contained in a 2020 engineering report that the dam had been dangerously weakened during floods in 2011 and 2013 caused chaos for growers when the Palaszczuk Government announced before the last election would reduce the dam’s holding capacity to repair the defects.

Bundaberg Fruit & Vegetable Growers CEO Bree Grima has told InQueensland that farmers throughout the district remain nervous about future water allocations to their farms as they contemplate a further five years before the promised restoration project is completed.

“I think we’re looking at 2027, at the earliest, before things return to anything like normal and growers have some certainty,” Grima said.

“At the moment water trading has virtually come to a standstill. There is no new water for sale and those who are holding water can put whatever price they want on it.

“There are still a lot of unknowns.”

The decision by the Albanese Government to match the state’s $600 million to restore the dam wall to its full height won’t see major works start until 2024, according to Queensland Water Minister Glenn Butcher.

Local federal member and former water minister during the Morrison Government’s term, Keith Pitt, said the timing of the project was vague.

“What we need to know now from the Albanese Government is when the restoration will be completed,” he said.

“Our community needs it fixed as soon as possible and I don’t want to see funding wasted on consultants or reports.

“It must be spent on the actual reconstruction – I want to see bulldozers and concrete trucks out at the dam – and the sooner the better.”

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Pitt said he would write to federal Infrastructure Minister Catherine King to request a briefing on the construction timeline.

“I’ll be pushing every step of the way to ensure it gets done,” he said.

The ongoing uncertainty comes as criticism mounts on federal Labor’s budget cuts that have scrapped several water projects across the State, including the $4.6 billion Hells Gate Dam.

Federal Water Minister Tanya Plibersek said the Paradise project would allow an expansion of irrigated agriculture in the region and more security for town water supply.

“Bundaberg is one of the nation’s most important food bowls and we know a rebuilt Paradise Dam will provide local growers with certainty into the future,” she said.

 

 

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