House debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2018


Dawson Electorate: Infrastructure

7:34 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In North Queensland we know a good, reliable source of water is essential to create jobs and to drive the local economy. That's why the Morrison Liberal-Nationals government has committed $3.3 billion to water infrastructure. In the northern half of my electorate, we have invested funds in the planning of a project to raise the wall of the Burdekin Falls Dam. We've also recently announced an investment of $200 million for a pipeline to take water from that dam, the Burdekin Falls Dam, to the City of Townsville, providing water security for that great garrison city. The Prime Minister has agreed to provide up to $54 million to build the first stage of Hell's Gate dam. That is called Big Rocks Weir. The entire dam project has the potential to open up 50,000 hectares of irrigated agricultural land providing 4,000 ongoing jobs, not to mention the 12,000 construction jobs that it would create.

What I want to focus on tonight is the southern half of my electorate where we have invested $3 million to do up-to-date planning work on the long-talked-about, long-waited Urannah Dam project. It is a project that will transform the economies of townships like Bowen and Collinsville, the Whitsundays and the entire Mackay region, reinvigorating rural communities by boosting agricultural enterprise, creating jobs and also supporting our resources sector. The project would do so by providing water for agricultural, urban, mining, industrial and green energy usage. It has the potential to open up large-scale sustainable irrigation of up to 40,000 hectares. That's going to be for high-value export products like macadamia nuts, table grapes and avocados.

One of the biggest benefits this dam will deliver is efficiency. Due to the shape of the dam, it has a large volume with a small surface area preventing excessive loss due to evaporation. In comparison with the Burdekin Falls Dam, Urannah could provide 80 per cent of the capacity with only 16 per cent of the footprint. Urannah Dam is also in a strategic location, providing the development of a water grid linking Urannah Dam to the Proserpine and Eungella dams and providing the most cost-efficient option of water delivery to all areas of the northern Bowen Basin coalfields It could also provide pumped hydro options ranging from 237 megawatts to 1,021 megawatts.

Abundant water and dispatchable energy is a win-win combination for North Queensland. That's a combination that will create thousands of jobs in construction and many thousands of jobs in new and expanded industries that will result. I'm pleased the business case for the dam, which was funded under the Liberal-Nationals government's National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, is almost complete. The final technical studies are now being done, and the first draft is expected to be published in February 2019. Early indications suggest a dam with a capacity of more than 1.5 million megalitres. That would generate a yield of 150,000 megalitres a year. A project on this scale can facilitate more than 20 resource projects—20 mines, 16 existing mines—generate more than 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy and open up more than 40,000 hectares of prime agricultural land for irrigation. The town of Bowen in particular, and Collinsville as well, have endured many years of difficult economic times. Businesses have struggled and some have closed down; people have lost jobs or been unable to find jobs and some have been forced to leave town.

The good people of Bowen and Collinsville can see the potential Urannah Dam offers them and their families—jobs and food on the table. But not everyone wants to see those jobs and people put food on the table. The extreme Greens have sought to denigrate water projects in North Queensland—sadly, including the Urannah Dam. Not even the scope for developing green energy can placate the Greens. They hate it because it will provide jobs and people will earn money through hard work. They hate it because businesses will flourish and employ local people. They hate it because it will create more people farming the land and providing food and fibre for the national and export markets. North Queenslanders are sick of listening to the predictable whinging of these extreme Greens. They want to see jobs and economic prosperity to get on with their lives. North Queenslanders look forward to seeing the final Urannah Dam report. So do I. I promised them I would get funding to get the ball rolling on Urannah and have I delivered. And I'm promising now to fight for funding to get the thing built.