Plan to drought­proof Qld

New Brad­field Scheme to re­visit con­cept from 1938

Central and North Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - RE­PORT: PAGE 12

BOLD PLAN: Queens­land’s LNP has promised, if elected in 2020, to build the state’s big­gest drought­bust­ing in­fra­struc­ture project. LNP leader Deb Freck­ling­ton said the New Brad­field Scheme would use wa­ter from the largest dam built in Queens­land to cre­ate a new food bowl on the west­ern side of the Great Di­vid­ing Range. The scheme has been de­vel­oped by two of Queens­land’s most re­spected knights of in­dus­try – Sir Leo Hielscher and Sir Frank Moore – and was in­spired by the drought-re­lief scheme pro­posed by civil en­gi­neer John Brad­field in 1938.

IT WAS a scheme de­signed to drought­proof West­ern Queens­land. In 1938 civil en­gi­neer and de­signer of the Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge, John Brad­field, pro­posed a project to di­vert wa­ter from the mon­soon-fed Tully, Her­bert and Bur­dekin Rivers through large pipes, tun­nels, pumps and dams into the Thom­son River on the west­ern side of the Great Di­vid­ing Range and even­tu­ally to flow south­west to Lake Eyre.

The wa­ter was ex­pected to pro­vide ir­ri­ga­tion for more than 7800sq km of agri­cul­tural land in Queens­land.

How­ever, the scheme was crit­i­cised due to high cap­i­tal and on­go­ing run­ning costs, which it was thought would make the project un­eco­nom­i­cal. In the 80 years since the Brad­field Scheme came about, it has re­ceived no real broad po­lit­i­cal sup­port.

In the ’80s, Bob Kat­ter ad­vo­cated the plan and again in 2007 the then-queens­land Pre­mier Peter Beattie sug­gested look­ing into a mod­ern ver­sion. But just last week the LNP an­nounced a plan for a New Brad­field Scheme.

It hopes to build what they have called Queens­land’s big­gest drought-bust­ing in­fra­struc­ture project.

NEW BRAD­FIELD SCHEME

LNP leader Deb Freck­ling­ton said the New Brad­field Scheme would use wa­ter from the largest dam built in Queens­land to cre­ate a new food­bowl on the west­ern side of the Great Di­vid­ing Range.

The scheme has been de­vel­oped by two of Queens­land’s most re­spected knights of in­dus­try – Sir Leo Hielscher and Sir Frank Moore – and was in­spired by the drought-re­lief scheme pro­posed by John Brad­field.

“The New Brad­field Scheme is an en­tirely new drought-bust­ing in­fra­struc­ture project that will de­liver mas­sive ben­e­fits to Queens­land,” Ms Freck­ling­ton said.

“I’m back­ing the New Brad­field Scheme be­cause it will cre­ate new jobs, pro­vide wa­ter for our farm­ers, gen­er­ate green hy­dro-elec­tric power and re­duce nu­tri­ent run-off on to the Reef.

“The drought is cost­ing Aus­tralia $12 bil­lion a year and it is dev­as­tat­ing re­gional com­mu­ni­ties.

“The New Brad­field Scheme will help to drought­proof Queens­land while gen­er­at­ing new jobs for decades to come.

“This project will change the face of Queens­land, but it will only be de­liv­ered by an LNP Gov­ern­ment.”

The project com­ple­ments the LNP’S plans to im­prove wa­ter se­cu­rity on the eastern side of the Great Di­vid­ing Range by start­ing work on the Nullinga Dam, Uran­nah Dam, Rook­wood Weir and rais­ing the Bur­dekin Falls Dam.

“Dur­ing the Fe­bru­ary floods in North Queens­land, the vol­ume of wa­ter spilling over Bur­dekin Falls Dam would have filled Syd­ney Har­bour in just five hours,” Ms Freck­ling­ton said.

“That wa­ter all went out to the sea – but the New Brad­field Scheme would cap­ture North Queens­land’s wa­ter and use it to cre­ate new jobs and se­cure the fu­ture of ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.”

If elected in 2020, a Deb Freck­ling­ton LNP Gov­ern­ment would com­mis­sion the CSIRO to be­gin ad­vanced plan­ning through a $20 mil­lion com­mit­ment to the New Brad­field Scheme.

The project would re­quire bil­lions of dol­lars and take over a decade to con­struct, but Ms Freck­ling­ton said the time had come for Queens­land and Can­berra to work to­gether to tackle the huge fi­nan­cial and hu­man costs of the drought.

“I will work in part­ner­ship with the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to de­liver this wa­ter project, be­cause beat­ing drought makes eco­nomic sense for every­one,” Ms Freck­ling­ton said.

“While the Palaszczuk La­bor Gov­ern­ment has fake fights with Can­berra to hide its own fail­ures, I will work with the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to build a bet­ter Queens­land.

“The up­side for Queens­land is huge. We can de­liver tens of thou­sands of new jobs and give farm­ers the wa­ter they need to thrive.

“The New Brad­field Scheme is an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity for Queens­land. Let’s seize it.”

IN­DUS­TRY SUP­PORT

AGFORCE has com­mended the vi­sion in tak­ing a fresh look at the pre-war Brad­field Scheme, say­ing it has the po­ten­tial to re­verse the de­cline of re­gional Queens­land and re­lieve the big­gest hand­brake on the agri­cul­ture in­dus­try – a lack of re­li­able, af­ford­able wa­ter.

Gen­eral pres­i­dent Georgie Som­er­set said Agforce was fully sup­port­ive of in­vest­ment in for­ward-look­ing wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture that sup­ported im­proved agri­cul­tural, com­mer­cial, em­ploy­ment and so­cial out­comes.

“We wel­come the vi­sion from both sides of pol­i­tics to im­prove the sup­ply of wa­ter for grow­ing agri­cul­ture and re­gional economies, par­tic­u­larly in the west,” Mrs Som­er­set said.

“Such a far­sighted project as vast in vi­sion and scale as this is go­ing to re­quire gen­uine bi­par­ti­san sup­port over a long pe­riod of time.

“It is clear that for Queens­land to be­come a $30 bil­lion-ayear agri­cul­tural pow­er­house for Aus­tralia, we must have ac­cess to re­li­able and, very im­por­tantly, af­ford­able wa­ter.”

Mrs Som­er­set com­mended the sci­ence-based ap­proach dis­played by the LNP’S New Brad­field Scheme in com­mis­sion­ing the CSIRO to un­der­take a de­tailed fea­si­bil­ity study.

“The orig­i­nal Brad­field scheme had sig­nif­i­cant en­gi­neer­ing and eco­nomic chal­lenges so we agree with the need to take a fresh look at this ‘big pic­ture’ idea,” she said.

“Is­sues to be stud­ied will in­clude man­ag­ing evap­o­ra­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion losses, avail­abil­ity of suit­able soils, sup­port­ing in­fra­struc­ture needs and costs, en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity and the ul­ti­mate ben­e­fit for lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

“A di­ver­si­fied pro­posal that in­cludes en­ergy and drought re­silience will likely max­imise the op­por­tu­nity for a prof­itable in­fra­struc­ture project.”

Queens­land Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Stu­art Armitage said farm­ers from Hugh­en­den in the north to Cun­na­mulla in the south could po­ten­tially ben­e­fit from the New Brad­field Scheme and the op­por­tu­ni­ties it pre­sented for agri­cul­ture and the re­gional com­mu­ni­ties the sec­tor sup­ports.

“For Queens­land to con­tinue pro­duc­ing world-class food, fi­bre and fo­liage, agri­cul­ture must have ac­cess to re­li­able and af­ford­able wa­ter,” Mr Armitage said.

“Crit­i­cal to the suc­cess of this and any other wa­ter project study is a gen­uine ex­am­i­na­tion of wa­ter yield and its re­li­a­bil­ity, par­tic­u­larly in a chang­ing cli­mate.

“And with the cost of wa­ter and as­so­ci­ated pump­ing costs so crit­i­cal these days, it must be clear from the out­set who will bear the cap­i­tal and op­er­at­ing costs of new schemes.”

Pic­ture: SUP­PLIED

The LNP’S vi­sion for a new Brad­field-type scheme.

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