Fears growers will miss out on water from Paradise Dam that’s diverted to pumped hydro schemes.
Agribusiness lawyer, Tom Marland, who is leading a class action about the mismanagement of Paradise Dam on behalf of local farmers, says many have raised concerns about water sales being proposed by Sunwater before the dam is fully repaired.
“It is imperative that Sunwater takes a cautious approach to future water sales from Paradise Dam,” says Mr Marland.
“To be planning water sales before the dam is fixed seems very premature.
“After all, it was only July last year (2021) when Sunwater was forced to announce just 22% announced allocation because of the lowering of Paradise Dam and the release of large volumes of water from the dam.
“Growers would much prefer to see Sunwater take a conservative approach to how Paradise Dam is managed, to ensure that the region doesn’t find itself facing desperate water shortages again in the future”.
Mr Marland says growers are deeply troubled by reports that the Queensland Government is considering subsidising a pumped hydro scheme at the soon to be closed Mt Rawdon Gold Mine, near Mt Perry.
“The Mt Rawdon Pumped Hydro scheme is proposing to build a pipeline from Paradise Dam in order to access around 24,000 ML of water,” says Mr Marland.
“Plus, there has been serious talk about a number of hydrogen generation projects being established near Bundaberg which will need large volumes of water from Paradise Dam.
“Hydrogen manufacturers also have their hand out for major state and federal government subsidies because these projects can’t stand on their own two feet”.
“The unsold water in Paradise Dam should go to high value agriculture, not industrial projects that require government subsidies.”
A Sunwater spokesperson says water-sharing rules were changed in 2020 to quarantine unsold water to maximise announced allocations during essential works to strengthen the dam.
“At that time, Sunwater made a commitment to reconsider options for water sales once an announcement was made on the dam’s future,” they say.
“With the Queensland and Australian government commitments to restore the dam to its original height, Sunwater is making good on that commitment and has started the engagement process.
“We have held discussions with the Bundaberg Water Supply Scheme Irrigator Advisory Committee and Paradise Dam Reference Group, while also hosting customer information sessions and sharing communications across the scheme.
“Changing water-sharing rules to reintroduce volumes for sale needs to be carefully considered and Sunwater is listening to customers to understand water demand needs over the life of the Dam Improvement Project.
Customer feedback will allow us to determine if water sales should occur prior to finalisation of the remediation of Paradise Dam.”