Farm­ers need wa­ter sup­ply for sur­vival

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS - Erica Mur­ree erica.mur­

COAL­STOUN Lakes De­vel­op­ment Group Inc members feel they have been over­looked af­ter miss­ing out on fund­ing for a fea­si­bil­ity study for the pro­vi­sion of wa­ter for the val­ley.

Chair­man Garry Seabrook said Coal­stoun Lakes had farm­ers on the ground, with the best vol­canic soil in Queens­land, and many were third- or fourth-gen­er­a­tion farm­ing fam­i­lies.

“We only need to ‘just add wa­ter’,” he said.

Mr Seabrook said the project could sig­nif­i­cantly change the dy­nam­ics of the re­gion’s pro­duc­tiv­ity from a risky, dry­land pro­duc­tion-based sys­tem to an in­ten­sive pro­duc­tion base for high-qual­ity and high-value agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties, in­clud­ing hor­ti­cul­ture and tree crops.

Mr Seabrook said the group’s pro­posal would cre­ate the need for value-adding ac­tiv­i­ties within the re­gion, with the flow-on ef­fects pro­vid­ing em­ploy­ment growth and dra­mat­i­cally in­creased rev­enue for the re­gional econ­omy.

The main project ben­e­fi­cia­ries would in­clude Gayn­dah and Biggen­den and the wider re­gions of the North Bur­nett Re­gional Coun­cil area.

Mr Seabrook said the re­gion’s pro­duce would be tar­geted to­wards do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, as well as adding about $20 mil­lion per an­num (ex-far­m­gate) to the re­gional econ­omy, not in­clud­ing value-adding ac­tiv­i­ties.

“Lo­cals are ex­tremely frus­trated and up­set that in 1998 an ap­pli­ca­tion by cane­grow­ers re­sulted in Par­adise Dam be­ing built in 2005, which was to pro­vide ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter for Childers and Bund­aberg,” he said.

“Still, 10 years later, there is 100,000 me­gal­itres of wa­ter un­sold in Par­adise Dam, how­ever. The grow­ers have not utilised it for their pur­poses.

“Isis is now af­ter more North Bur­nett wa­ter, with an­other ap­pli­ca­tion for 28,000 me­gal­itres. Farm­ers in Gayn­dah, Childers and Bund­aberg have ac­cess to ir­ri­ga­tion schemes or li­cences to pro­vide wa­ter.”

Fel­low farmer Kerry Dove said the re­gion had ex­tremely fer­tile vol­canic soils, which was proven by in­de­pen­dent soil tests.

“The only prod­uct miss­ing is wa­ter,” he said.

“How the Aus­tralian and Queens­land gov­ern­ments can con­tinue to over­look this po­ten­tial food bowl of Aus­tralia is amaz­ing.

“All politi­cians who visit the area com­ment on its po­ten­tial to pro­vide pre­mium qual­ity food.”

Mark Rack­e­mann said they were all self-funded farm­ers and had the next gen­er­a­tion will­ing to con­tinue the tra­di­tion.

“With only two good sea­sons in the last 10, it is hard to see a fu­ture for farm­ing un­der dry­land con­di­tions – es­pe­cially if the cli­mate is dry­ing as pre­dicted,” he said.

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