Grow­ing sup­port for weir project

Central Telegraph - - CQ INDUSTRY -

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

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