Big dam money 'guaranteed'
The Federal Government says it will put up a staggering $5.4 billion for a new dam in north Queensland.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says his government wants to create a body of water four times the size of Sydney Harbour, spruiking the proposed Hells Gates Dam as a game changer for Queensland.
The 2,100 gigalitre dam in the Upper Burdekin catchment, 120 kilometres north-west of Townsville in north Queensland would be the state’s largest, and open up 60,000 hectares of irrigation across the region, the government says.
The planned dam has been the subject of promises and political sparring for decades, having originally been put forth over 80 years ago as part of the 1938 Bradfield Scheme.
The Bradfield Scheme would involve building a giant series of pipes, tunnels, pumps and dams to divert waters from monsoon-fed areas of the far north down into the state’s arid central region. It has been criticised since its inception as being impractical and non-scientific, though it continues to be pushed by Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, Pauline Hanson's One Nation party and independent MP Bob Katter.
The dam plan put forth this week is more of a localised irrigation scheme, largely benefiting nearby areas of Townsville, Charters Towers and the Burdekin.
For the Hells Gates Dam, the government says funding is guaranteed, despite its business case not yet being approved. Local business lobby Townsville Enterprise is conducting the final business case for Hells Gates.
Its proponents say the operation of the $5.4 billion dam and the expanded agricultural opportunities it brings will support 3,000 jobs, generating $6 billion of gross regional product in north Queensland.
“We’ve done the homework on Hells Gates Dam and it’s now time to get on and build it,” the Prime Minister says.
“We have put our money on the table, so let’s cut the green tape, get the approvals and get it done.”
Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water Terri Butler says it is not the first time the LNP has made this promise.
“They announced this before the 2019 election,” Ms Butler said.
“We remain very open to this dam but of course we will want to see a business case and we want to make sure tax payers are getting value for money as you would expect a prudent economic manager to do.
“We are open to water infrastructure projects.”