Brett Heading and Stuart Nicholson, centre, after addressing Council’s August Ordinary Meeting (Photo: Kathy Duff)

September 21, 2021

South Burnett Regional Council will investigate a proposal that a weir be built on Barambah Creek to expand irrigation in the Moffatdale area.

This follows an address to Council by Moffatdale businessman Brett Heading and Barker-Barambah Irrigator Advisory Committee chair Stuart Nicholson, and motions moved at recent Council meetings.

In a deputation to Council, the pair said a 15 metre barrage would have the ability to capture up to 10,000 megalitres of water, opening up opportunities for irrigators from Moffatdale to Byee and eliminating problems caused by the unreliability of water supplies from Bjelke-Petersen Dam.

The proposed West Barambah Weir was not one of the top projects identified in the recent $2 million Burnett Water Feasibility study by consultants Jacobs.

At the August Infrastructure Standing Committee meeting, councillors considered a motion to begin Phase 2 of the study.

This motion covered the recommendations detailed by Jacobs’ consultants ie. develop a 25-year regional economic plan to inform water infrastructure investment decisions in the South Burnett, assess the viability of converting Gordonbrook Dam from urban to irrigation use, assess water infrastructure for Blackbutt irrigators, and undertake a rigorous evidence-based analysis of the Barlil Weir proposal.

However, Cr Kathy Duff moved a successful amendment, seconded by Mayor Brett Otto, that a study to increase the reliability of water in the Barambah Barkers Creek scheme also be included.

At the August Ordinary meeting, councillors listened to the deputation by Mr Heading and Mr Nicholson before voting unanimously to adopt the Standing Committee recommendations, including completing a hydrological and economic assessment and analysis of the West Barambah Catchment, ie. the West Barambah Weir.

South Burnett Mayor Brett Otto

Mayor Otto told the Barambah Creek proposal had the potential to capture at least three times more water than the proposed upgrade to Barlil Weir – one of the key projects identified in the Jacobs report.

It also had the potential to create significant growth in the area from Moffatdale to Murgon, he said.

“At the moment many farmers in the area are producing low-value fodder crops, but irrigation would allow allow them to move into higher value crops such as macadamias and table grapes.

“The key problem for irrigators isn’t allocation – it’s reliability of supply – and solving this would provide a great boost to agriculture in that area.”

Mr Heading and Mr Nicholson told Council that Barambah Creek was one of the most reliable watercourses in the region.

They said the possibility of building a barrage to trap some of its water was first examined in 1942 and later re-examined in the 1990s.

Both studies had found it was a viable proposal, but for some reason it had never been built.

Mr Nicholson said the Barker-Barambah Irrigator Advisory Committee had tried to arrange a meeting with Jacobs to discuss the proposal but the pandemic had derailed that plan.

They were now very concerned the project might be overlooked completely .

Mr Heading and Mr Nicholson said irrigators using Bjelke-Petersen Dam were being held back by its unreliability.

Mr Nicholson said that since 2003, the dam was only able to supply water 35 per cent of the time.

By contrast, a barrage on Barambah Creek could offer a much higher level of reliability.

It would also require very little additional infrastructure because irrigators already had most of the necessary equipment in place.

Mr Heading – who owns the Clovely Estate vineyards and olive groves at Moffatdale – stressed that obtaining adequate water supplies was critical for the future growth of the region.

He said from his own inquiries, he believed the State and Federal Governments would react “very favourably” to the Barambah Creek project.

The scope of works and estimated costs of Phase 2 – including assessment of the West Barambah Weir proposal – will be considered at Wednesday’s Council meeting.

Councillors will vote on conducting a hydrological assessment of West Barambah Weir. If this showed potential, an economic assessment would become a priority extension to the Phase 2 study.

Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington told she would support any water project that provided an affordable solution to growers but was yet to see any detailed information about the Barambah Weir proposal.

Footnote: There are already two other weirs on the Barker-Barambah scheme: Joe Sippel Weir and Silverleaf Weir, west of Murgon, which supply water for farming in Redgate, Murgon and Mondure, and supplement urban water supplies for Murgon, Wondai, Byee and Cherbourg.

Related articles:

FLASHBACK: South Burnett Mayor Brett Otto, centre, with SBRC Project Officer Ged Brennan and Jacobs consultant Chris Hewitt when the original shortlist of projects was announced in July last year

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