QUEENSLAND continues to be gripped by drought – so much so that almost two-thirds of our State is now drought-declared and across the border, it’s been suggested it’s the worst drought in NSW in a century.
The situation north of the Tweed is something I touched on in my latest appearance on Sky News with host Gary Hardgrave, whilst explaining to viewers around Australia and New Zealand about the importance of building dams in Queensland “where it actually rains” especially in the North.
As many astute observers are aware, there are many opportunities in relation to developing our water infrastructure in the North and Far North including the Nullinga Dam on the Walsh River on the Tablelands, raising the wall on the Burdekin Falls Dam and closer to home, building the Urannah Dam.
Urannah, for those who haven’t closely followed my political career, has been my pet project and was always envisaged as a sister dam to the Burdekin.
It was passionately championed in the 1960s by legendary bush medico Sir Peter Delamothe, known to my Uncle Brahma in Collinsville before he went on to become the Liberal Member for Bowen and the longest-serving Attorney-General and Minister for Justice in Queensland history.
With the support of iconic Collinsville grazier, the late Ted Cunningham, the “Doc”, as he was known, fought for the Urannah Dam for a long time, however, with his posting to the UK as Queensland’s Agent-General, the project became largely forgotten about for decades.
In more recent years, thanks to my efforts, backed up by others, we have put Urannah back on the agenda and that was reflected in a strong LNP policy commitment heading into the State Election in November last year.
On the other side of the political divide, the Palaszczuk Labor Government gave no such undertaking – in fact, the State Government’s position was in stark contrast, committing to no dams whatsoever, if re-elected.
Hence, we find ourselves in a situation whereby very little, if anything, is happening with the exception of another feasibility study in relation to Urannah, which quite frankly, follows studies completed earlier.
That study, I might add, is only happening thanks to the persistence of Bowen Collinsville Enterprise and specifically the efforts of David Evans, who has kept the project alive over many years – certainly well before I came on the scene when I began making noise about this far-flung corner of my patch.
That’s actually been one of the stumbling blocks – Urannah, up until late last year, was in the local government area of Mackay, the state electorate of Whitsunday and the Federal electorate of Capricornia.
If constructed, the long-awaited dam would be perched about 200 metres above sea level, providing gravity-fed water for at least 30,000 hectares of irrigated farmland in and around Collinsville, which happens to be, in the Whitsunday local government area, where drought is also biting.
In fact, last time I checked, 90% of the Whitsunday local government area was drought-declared, which underlines the importance of building dams more than ever before, especially where it rains and let me tell you, it rains incredibly up in the Clarke Range, near Eungella.
I’ve no doubt that with a good wet season, the dam, on the Broken River, would be filled in no time, just like what happened at Peter Faust Dam, west of Proserpine, except Urannah would be more than three times bigger at a whopping 1.5 million megalitres – yes, no turkey’s nest!
In conclusion, I will continue to keep Urannah and water infrastructure in the spotlight, especially given those statistics and with no immediate sign of respite – much to the heartache and frustration of those poor souls on the land.
I’ll also remind you what I also said on the “Hardgrave” program in relation to the drought appeal, launched by the Premier at the Ekka – that is, she has a hide after stitching up our farmers and graziers with those vegetation management laws, prompting the birth of the Green Army.