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Thursday, 6 March 2003
Page: 9486


Senator BARNETT (6:20 PM) —I stand to speak in favour and support of the Meander Dam, which is a very important project in Tasmania. The federal government has committed $2.6 million to this project, subject to approval processes— environmental approval in particular. My own family farmed for 40 years on the Meander River. Like everyone else, the viability of our family farm depended on the water from the Meander River. I can assure you that over the past 10 years or so each summer it has been getting harder and harder to irrigate from the Meander River because of the lack of water.

The Meander Dam is going to have many benefits. I say that the green lobby have no right to blame the farming community for the Meander River's problems. The economies of the Deloraine, Exton, Westbury, Hagley, Carrick and surrounding communities rely heavily on primary industries. Nobody can argue that the river is healthy as it is. Today, problems with the river are well known. Low flows in the summer mean that water restrictions can be imposed, and only a couple of weeks ago they were imposed. Irrigation is now not allowed on the Meander River; it is prohibited. Ironically, winter flows are so unpredictable that homes in the region get inundated and property is damaged from time to time. The most serious flood in winter in recent years was in 1998.

A carefully designed, constructed and managed dam would guard against drought and flood and would bring untold economic and other benefits to the region. It would also allow for the production of clean hydro-electricity and the development of another fishery and recreation area. Environmental concerns are valid, but in my view they are not significant enough to scuttle this project. This project will bring so many benefits. This dam is too important a project to our community.

The Tasmanian Liberal Senate team are totally committed to working together to ensure that the dam will still be built without unnecessary delay. It is now vital that the state government act within its power to get the dam back on track. It put up a submission to the Planning Appeals Tribunal and, unfortunately, it was inadequate. They needed comprehensive work, research and evidence to make sure that there was a convincing submission put to the tribunal. They failed in that effort, and the tribunal turned down their proposal and knocked it back. They are now looking at enabling legislation. They have one last chance. They have a second and last chance to get it right. This is one shot in the locker, and I am urging them to do whatever is required to make sure that they are successful in getting the dam built and that they put the research together. It must, at the end of the day, come to Dr David Kemp and Environment Australia to gain approval. The research must be done. There is no turning back; this is one last chance to get it right. They have the full support and commitment of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team in getting that evidence right. The Meander Dam, as I said, is good for the economy and the environment.

I want to commend the work of Mayor Mark Shelton and the Meander Valley Council and their total commitment to support the dam, as well as the Meander Dam Action Group—Jenny Dornauf and her committee. In particular, I want to highlight the wonderful work that has been done by the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association with Brendon Thompson and Ian Whyte. The entire association is totally committed to making this a success, and we stand with them shoulder to shoulder to make that happen. We want to support and offer our assistance to the state government to make sure that they do their job correctly on this occasion in putting their submission forward to the federal government. We stand with the state opposition—Rene Hidding and his colleagues—in our support and with the local community, which overwhelmingly—and I repeat overwhelmingly—supports this project going ahead.

It is to be a 360-hectare lake, holding 43,000 megalitres of water. There will be a mini hydro scheme of some $4 million, not just for irrigation. This project will help in terms of power. It will cost between $25 million and $30-odd million. It will have total flow-on benefits of $53 million per annum and an increase in employment of 77 full-time on-farm jobs and 79 other full-time jobs. It has a projected capital investment of $12.7 million in on-farm infrastructure. All in all, it is good for the economy and good for the environment. (Time expired)