Guest speakers Bernadette Zerba and Grant Horton, from the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, explained the process of how the feasibility study would move forward

February 15, 2019

South Burnett Regional Council reported back to stakeholders on Thursday about progress of the $2 million joint South Burnett – North Burnett water feasibility study.

An informal South Burnett Water Users Group was formed by Mayor Keith Campbell in November following an announcement by the Federal Government that it would fund a feasibility study to investigate new infrastructure options for increased water supply and water security in the Burnett region.

Council CEO Mark Pitt told the group of about 40 farmers, consultants and agribusiness representatives gathered at the Town Common Hall in Kingaroy that the paperwork – and the milestones – for the funding were being developed.

In the meantime, the North Burnett Regional Council and the South Burnett Regional Council had each prepared draft scoping documents which had been submitted to the Department of Natural Resources.

“They have spoken to the Commonwealth … and some amended paperwork has come back,” Mr Pitt said.

“Sunwater has been brought in as a partner as well.”

Mr Pitt said South Burnett Regional Council had urban water projects happening in parallel to this water security project.

He said agricultural security and development were a priority but it was also important for council to also consider water security for future economic development and economic security.

Mr Pitt explained the proposed timeline for the project:

  • The two draft scoping documents would be folded into one by the end of this month
  • A project steering committee (consisting of representatives from the two councils) would hold its first formal meeting and have milestones established by the end of March
  • Consultants would then be engaged and studies initiated (work will commence on the ground with stakeholders)
  • A draft document would be prepared by the end of December
  • The final document would be presented and adopted by April 2020

SBRC General Manager Infrastructure & Utilities Aaron Meehan said the North Burnett scoping document was concentrating on projects along the Boyne River.

The South Burnett, in comparison, was looking at projects that could be finalised in the short term, but also the medium and longer terms.

The meeting was told there was some urgency in setting the project milestones, so the funding could be locked into an agreement between the State and Commonwealth governments ahead of the upcoming Federal Election.

Mayor Campbell said the water users group would be necessary to “lobby hard” in the future as this first $2 million for the feasibility study would all be consumed in consultancies.

“There won’t be anything left over for actual work,” he said.

“From there, it has to move to a lobbying exercise to be able to achieve grant monies to go the next leg.”

Mr Pitt said further meetings of the water users group would be called as necessary as the project progressed, but stakeholders would also be updated via email.

* * *

Water projects suggested at the November meeting were again discussed from the floor of the meeting, including:

  • The construction of Barlil Weir
  • Improvements at Gordonbrook Dam
  • More utilisation of Wivenhoe Dam water and recycled water by the Tarong Power Stations
  • Increased on-farm storage
  • Better use of Paradise Dam, ie. keep some of the Burnett River water that flows into the dam back in the South and North Burnett
  • Construction of a pipeline from Paradise Dam to Coalstoun Lakes and further south

The future of Paradise Dam, which was damaged in the 2013 floods, was also discussed.

The dam, which is currently underutilised, is located on the Burnett River near Biggenden.

The meeting was told that one proposal, under evaluation by SunWater, could involve lowering the dam wall which could cut the dam’s capacity by up to 90 per cent.

If this occurred, it would be reasonable that the various State Government water planning instruments that currently allocate water resources from the Burnett River would be reviewed, possibly freeing up more for use in the South and North Burnett regions.

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Grant Horton (DNRME), Bernadette Zerba (DNRME), Mayor Keith Campbell, CEO Mark Pitt and General Manager Infrastructure & Utilities Aaron Meehan answered questions from the floor of the meeting

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