A PROJECT OF THIS SIZE REQUIRES POLITICAL COURAGE TO COMMIT TO A VISION THAT WOULD EXTEND WELL PAST THE NEXT ELECTORAL CYCLE ONE HELL OF A GOOD IDEA
NOW that Townsville’s immediate water security concerns are finally being addressed, it’s high time a real nation- building project began to attract some attention. It has a memorable name but precious little is known by the general public about the Hell’s Gate dam proposal and what it could mean to our region and the development of Northern Australia.
Townsville Enterprise is overseeing the latest – and hopefully last – in an extremely long string of engineering, environmental and economic feasibility studies into the dam proposal.
At the time it was announced it was touted as a solution to Townsville’s water woes and was howled down by frustrated local residents looking for solutions now, not in several years and not costing billions of dollars.
But now the Water Taskforce has delivered its interim report, hopefully visionary North Queenslanders can begin to think about the benefits such a nationbuilding project might bring.
Proposed to be built northwest of Townsville and capturing just a fraction of the output of the mighty Burdekin Dam, Hell’s Gate is the kind of project that would establish our city as the centrepiece for the development of Northern Australia for the next century.
It is a pet project of Kennedy MP Bob Katter but it was first identified as a potential dam site as part of the Bradfield Scheme back in 1937.
Various proposals are out there but one I have been shown would see vast new plains of irrigable land opened up by this captured water, converting many areas now considered scrub into productive agricultural pasture.
The shape of the geography of the proposed site would also present a far greater potential to harness the power of the storage for hydro- electric generation, with the “fall” of the water far greater than that of the Burdekin Falls Dam.
The proposal I have seen combines these two benefits by using hydro power to support creation of a bioethanol plant, creating jobs and clean energy.
But a project of this size requires political guts – courage to commit to a vision that would extend well past the next electoral cycle.
TEL’s feasibility study is due in the first half of next year. Hopefully it recognises the potential this project has to bring on the next big growth phase for the North.