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

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

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.

GAME CHANGER: The site of the pro­posed Hell's Gate dam.

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