An independent, expert panel chaired by Professor Ross Garnaut will conduct a comprehensive government examination of the Bradfield inland irrigation scheme.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today announced the panel, which will also include Queensland Farmers Federation chief executive officer Dr Georgina Davis and James Cook University Professor Allan Dale.
“Queensland has a plan for economic recovery, building on traditional strengths like agriculture and a $50 billion infrastructure commitment,” she said.
“We know that access to affordable water for irrigation can foster expanded agribusiness and jobs in regional Queensland.
“As the globe faces harsh economic headwinds, it’s important to continue to capitalise on opportunities here in our state.
“Projects like this have the potential to support a new generation of farmers, landholders and regional communities if it’s done in a way that is realistic and affordable.
“By continuing to have a strong health response, we’re able to look towards the future with exciting projects like this and keep delivering on Queensland’s plan for economic recovery.”
The panel’s job will be to assess the financial, economic, environmental, social and technical viability of a Bradfield Scheme, or “Bradfield like” concepts, as well as make recommendations for any further assessment.
Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said nation-building water infrastructure like a Bradfield scheme was usually driven by a national government.
“The Premier first raised the Bradfield Scheme in October last year and offered to work with the Commonwealth Government on a revised scheme,” Dr Lynham said.
“The Queensland Government is not waiting any longer: we are taking the lead and comprehensively re-examining a Bradfield Scheme concept.”
The panel’s terms of reference include:
· considering the economic benefits to regional communities and agricultural production, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and related recession.
· opportunities for renewable energy generation, complementary hydroelectric power generation, hydrogen production opportunities, and resources sector development.
· integrating with complementary infrastructure, including the CopperString project.
Dr Lynham said the new examination would look at the project from a 21st century perspective, including considering climate change, the impact on the Great Barrier Reef of diverting natural water flows, native title, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ cultural connections.
Minister for Infrastructure Cameron Dick said delivering Queensland’s path to recovery from COVID-19 meant ensuring that proper consideration is given to projects like the Bradfield Scheme.
“Delivering infrastructure Queensland needs will play a critical role in our state’s recovery,” Mr Dick said.
“That’s why we are delivering on our program of infrastructure work including $13.9 billion this financial year, as revealed in our recently released Capital Update 2020.
“This expert panel will have the knowledge and critical thinking required to ensure that projects that make up the Bradfield Scheme will grow our economy, and are planned, funded and delivered properly.”
Member for Townsville Scott Stewart welcomed the panel’s appointment.
“It’s easy to talk about the Bradfield Scheme: the Palaszczuk Government is going to put money behind it and fund a 21st century expert re-examination,” he said.
Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper said significant investigations were already underway into projects that could be part of a Bradfield-style scheme.
“Any Bradfield project must start with water storage in the north – and that’s already happening,” he said.
“There’s three business cases underway or in hand – raising Burdekin Falls Dam, Hells Gate Dam and Big Rocks Weir and Urannah Dam has been declared a coordinated project.”
The panel is due to report back to within a year.
The Palaszczuk Government has committed $1.2 billion to water infrastructure since 2017, creating almost 2300 jobs in regional Queensland.
Engineer Dr John Bradfield devised the Bradfield Scheme concept in the 1930s.
He proposed to use the floodwaters, and a portion of the normal flow, of the Tully, Herbert, Burdekin, Clarke and Flinders River to create a new permanent river that would “traverse Queensland” from near Hughenden to Windorah and the Queensland border. The goal was to intensify agriculture and population in the south-west.
Dr Bradfield’s original concept also envisaged hydroelectric power generated to pump water.
The scheme would require a number of water storages, as well as a tunnel and an aqueduct through the Flinders Range.