Plan to droughtproof Qld
New Bradfield Scheme to revisit concept from 1938
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.”
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.”
The LNP’S vision for a new Bradfield-type scheme.