By AgForce Water Committee Chair Kim Bremner
Earth isn’t called the Blue World for nothing. The precious liquid that covers three quarters of our planet’s surface is essential to life as we know it; including the very privileged life we Australians enjoy.
So, it amazes me that the State Government doesn’t seem to be guided by a long-term water strategy, at least as it relates to regional Queensland.
In the late ‘noughties’, when the urban south-east was months way from running out of water, the Government developed a $9 billion plan to drought-proof the region.
Their visionary solution included new dams, upgrades to existing dams, expensive new technologies like recycling and desalination, and a global-scale pipeline to direct water wherever it was needed.
A modern engineering wonder.
However, the same forward-looking innovation has been conspicuously lacking in their response to water security in regional Queensland, and in particular agriculture.
Case in point is Paradise Dam. Paradise was conceived to capture the Wide Bay region’s substantial and predictable rainfall to provide water security for its urban communities and opportunities to boost the economy and employment through agriculture in this famously productive region.
But the Government went with the cheapest, not the best, option – and now the community is paying the price. Just 10 years on, this 300,000 megalitre nation-building dam was on the point of failing.
However, rather than take a future view, the Government again took the easy option. Rather than repair the dam for its intended purpose they announced – with no community consultation – that they would simply reduce the capacity of the dam by 60 per cent.
In the meantime, though, the community had invested millions of dollars in agricultural ventures based on the promise of water security – high-value crops like macadamia nuts and avocados.
What now for them and their investment in family and community?
The Government’s piecemeal, short-term approach to water infrastructure is killing investment in agriculture and undermining the industry’s ability to be the major contributor to our post-COVID recovery.
As a State, we need to stop making localised, knee-jerk decisions to water issues and engage all stakeholders – agriculture, mining, industry, communities – to develop and follow a co-ordinated, sustainable 30-year strategy that will benefit all Queenslanders.
Surely, this is what our elected Governments are responsible for, rather than scoring political points and shoring up their votes?