WBBROC regional water co-ordinator Steve Brown with South Burnett mayor Keith Campbell

November 30, 2018

An informal “South Burnett Water Users Group” was formed on Thursday following a forum called by South Burnett Regional Council to gather ideas for future water projects in the region.

The meeting was organised following an announcement by the Federal Government earlier this month that it would fund a $2 million joint South Burnett/North Burnett Regional Council feasibility study to investigate new infrastructure options for increased water supply and water security in the Burnett region.

A group of about 30 responded to the invitation from Council to attend, including local farmers and consultants plus representatives from businesses including Bega (PCA), Swickers, Boehringer Ingelheim and Stanwell.

Also in attendance at the Town Common Hall were several councillors and representatives from BIEDO, the Burnett Mary Regional Group and local water user groups.

Mayor Keith Campbell chaired the meeting and introduced the guest speaker, Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils (WBBROC) regional water co-ordinator Steve Brown.

Mr Brown has been studying water issues within the WBBROC region – which includes both the South and North Burnett council areas – for the past three years.

He explained that although the area had been “studied to death”, the feasibility study was necessary to “put numbers on a page that will get us to the next hurdle, a business case”.

Mayor Campbell said he had confirmed during a trip to Canberra this week that the $2m for the feasibility project was “secure”, ie. not dependent on the outcome of the next Federal Election, but additional money that the Federal Government was planning to put into a “water fund” – $500 million – was subject to the Coalition being re-elected.

However, even if there was a change of government, it would leave the Burnett with a very sound plan which the region could continue to work on.

SBRC CEO Mark Pitt said the meeting was to “start the conversation” and would be one of a series of workshops held in the South and North Burnett areas.

Mr Brown reminded the audience the last major water infrastructure development in the area had been the Paradise Dam “which has been a total failure”.

Calling for ideas, Mayor Campbell urged  the audience “don’t be shy” about putting forward suggestions (see below).

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Ideas were taken from the floor at the Water Forum held in the Kingaroy Town Common Hall

The Suggestions … 

Some of the ideas put forward included:

  • Tarong Power Stations using more Wivenhoe Dam water to free up more water from Boondooma Dam for other purposes
  • Making better use of the under-utilised water in Paradise Dam, eg. taking water to Coalstoun Lakes, then onwards to Bjelke-Petersen Dam and Kingaroy, potentially along a track from Murgon to Tingoora and Wooroolin
  • Barlil Weir – a project for which engineering plans have previously been drawn up, but never built
  • Flood harvesting from Barambah Creek into Bjelke-Petersen Dam
  • Turning ownership of Gordonbrook Dam over to SunWater, raising the dam wall and de-silting the dam
  • Building a water storage upstream of Barambah Station on Barambah Creek
  • Building water storages below Stonelands
  • Building more weirs which would slow water going down creeks and increase groundwater recharge, eg. Reedy Creek, Mannuem Creek
  • Encouraging farmers to do more basic earthworks on their properties to capture more run-off
  • Use of recycled water from Luggage Point pumped via Wivenhoe Dam pipeline to Tarong
  • Use of the Wivenhoe to Toowoomba pipeline
  • The construction of an 8km pipeline to link Wivenhoe Dam to Atkinson Dam

The discussion focussed on the fact the fate of many water projects in the past had been decided solely on the basis of politics.

Some other points from the meeting:

  • Peanut growers could double their yields if water was added
  • The soils in the Burnett are “every bit as good”, and probably even better, than the soils around Bundaberg … “We could make Kingaroy a great big hub of employment; we have some of the best dirt in the world sitting here but it’s too dry”
  • Swickers is spending a “crippling” $50,000 a month on water because it has to buy town water
  • A “silo mentality” between various government departments meant that important information was not being shared

Mayor Campbell said Council would be co-operating in every way it can with the feasibility plan but “you are the ones who need to drive this as a project”.

It was for this reason that he suggested a South Burnett Water Users Group be formed from the people at the meeting.

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BIEDO CEO Kristy Frahm suggested that people interested in irrigation issues also register with the Queensland Competition Authority which is currently conducting reviews into irrigation water prices. 

The QCA plans to hold workshops in the New Year in areas which show interest.  Water schemes to be discussed include the Barker-Barambah and Boyne River-Tarong.

Registrations can be made here: http://www.qca.org.au/IrrigationWorkshops

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