Growing support for weir project
A BLUE ribbon of water up to 60km long stretching across the often dusty plains of central Queensland is the dream about to come true for a legendary Australian who has devoted much of his life to Australian agriculture.
Larry Acton, the man whose drive created the broad-acre lobby group AgForce by amalgamating the Queensland Grain Growers Association, the Cattlemen’s Union and the United Graziers’ Association, can’t wait for the bulldozers to start work on Rookwood Weir on the Fitzroy River west of Rockhampton.
Mr Acton won’t gain much financially from the project, with his property “Riverton”, which runs a commercial herd of Braford cattle put at disadvantage for at least a year because of the presence of work crews.
But he, along with thousands of primary producers across the state who have been loudly calling for a return of the state’s dam building culture, says he can handle the inconvenience in return for the pleasure of seeing Queensland’s farm sector developed.
Mr Acton says the state’s wealth was built on projects like the Eungella Dam west of Mackay, which fuelled the mining boom in the Mackay hinterland, and the Fairbairn Dam near Emerald, which sparked hundreds of millions of dollars of agricultural development.
The Rookwood Weir, with a $130 million commitment from the Federal Government already on the table expected to be soon backed by a similar commitment from the State Government, will provide water for an agricultural boom west of Rockhampton which the Commonwealth believes will be worth around $1 billion to the region.
Mr Acton said the real money is going to be made in the hinterland as the softwood scrub and brigalow country which covers a mixture of rich dark and red soils gives way to farms producing anything from grapes and peanuts to lychees, citrus and other fruit and vegetables, all fed with water from the Rookwood Weir project.
“People have no idea what can be grown out here if we have the water,” he says.
Local Senator Matt Canavan, a driving force behind the Federal Coalition’s pro dam policy who visited the weir site with Acton this year, says Australia has to reinvigorate the nation building ethos which fuelled projects like the Snowy Mountain Scheme.
“There are often quite good environmental objections to dam projects going ahead but many of those concerns can now be addressed with sensible measures that protect the environment and still allow our agricultural sector to expand,” he said.
Farmer Larry Acton shows Senator Matt Canavan and Capricornia MP Michelle Landry the site for the proposed Rookwood Weir. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED