Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Australia is a land of extremes, and when it comes to the weather, as we've seen over recent days, we do extreme well. Our hearts go out to all those affected by the wild weather that has washed through New South Wales and South-East Queensland. But a few hundred kilometres from the coastal flooding, my electorate is still hoping that the rain will signal a change in fortune and relieve them from the grip of what could be called a green drought. In the Toowoomba region, the rain has been enough to add colour back to our parks and paddocks, but not enough to restore deep moisture reserves after years of dry weather. The reality is that the Toowoomba region's dams are still only sitting at 30 per cent capacity, despite this week's very welcome falls. In my region, water is the key to life, and, without it, our health, our economy, our people and our communities suffer.
We're seeing all of these challenges in real time in the town of Clifton, just outside of my electorate, which has required drinking water to be trucked in since supplies ran dry in late 2019, at a cost of more than $90,000 a month to the Toowoomba Regional Council. It's an expensive exercise and demonstrates why water security is an issue being addressed locally by all levels of government. Five southern Queensland councils and one New South Wales council have joined to form a regional water alliance to look at solutions to this critical issue—solutions that could potentially traverse the invisible line that is the Queensland-New South Wales state border. I wish the new alliance—which includes the Toowoomba, Western Downs, Southern Downs, Goondiwindi and Lockyer Valley regional councils as well as the Tenterfield Shire Council, south of the border—the very best in determining projects that will bring water security to this very productive region.
I'm also actively looking to engage with the state government to ensure the Toowoomba region isn't overlooked in water infrastructure planning. Earlier this year I wrote to Queensland water minister, Glenn Butcher, to outline my concerns relating to water security on the Darling Downs. I also asked about discussions between the National Water Grid Authority and the state government about a local water supply security assessment on the Darling Downs. I'm very pleased to place on the record—and credit where credit's due—that $9 million has been allocated by Minister Butcher's department for three regional water assessments, including the Southern Downs and the Darling Downs. These assessments will seek to identify water supply challenges as well as opportunities for stimulating economic activity across each of the regions and across the various sectors of their economies. The assessments will also seek to identify water supply options that could—subject to the outcomes of more specific and detailed assessments—provide the water needed to meet those challenges and opportunities.
It's crucial that we continue, across all levels of government, to collaboratively engage with this issue going forward. Water security is not a challenge that can be overcome in isolation, while we wait for rain to fall into our catchment areas. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of the members of the Toowoomba Regional Council, who I met with in their chambers earlier this year, for their engagement on water security. It's very crucial that they are focused on this, and I think the people of the Toowoomba region expect this. So thank you, Mayor Antonio, for all of your good work.