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Tuesday, 26 November 1974
Page: 2731


The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted?


Senator Wood - No.


The PRESIDENT - Leave is not granted.


Senator WRIEDT -The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Queensland Grant (Bundaberg Irrigation Works) Act 1970 to provide additional financial assistance of $4.4m to the Queensland Government towards the cost of completing certain works in phase 1 of stage 1 of the Bundaberg irrigation project. Under the 1 970 Act, a grant of $ 12.8m was provided for the construction of Monduran Dam, which will provide the main storage of the project, Gin Gin Channel and an associated pumping station which will link the Kolan River and Burnett River sections of the project. The State undertook to finance the balance of the works in phase 1 out of its own resources, involving the construction of tidal barrages on the Kolan and Burnett rivers and water distribution systems. lt became clear by mid- 1973 that the cost of the works being financed by the Australian Government would considerably exceed the funds available under the Act and the Queensland Government submitted a request for a further grant of $4.4m. The cost increase was attributed, in the main, to the unusual and rugged nature of the terrain through which Gin Gin Channel is being constructed, to the limited experience in Australia in the design and cost estimation of the pumping equipment to be installed in association with Gin Gin Channel and to substantial increases in construction site allowances which were not envisaged when estimates for the project were finalised. The general escalation in salaries, wages and construction materials also contributed to the increased cost of the works being financed by the Australian Government.

The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation was engaged by the Department of Northern Development to advise on the revised cost estimates.

Monduran Dam will provide a storage capacity of 584,000 megalitres and provide an assured supply of water of 128,000 megalitres annually. The dam is virtually complete, Gin Gin Channel is about 60 per cent complete and the pumping station is at an advanced stage of design. The State has completed the Kolan tidal barrage, construction has commenced on the Burnett tidal barrage and one of the supply channels is likely to be in operation by the end of this year.

Over the past year, the Australian Government has undertaken a comprehensive evaluation of the whole of the Bundaberg Irrigation Project, phase 1 and phase 2. The Department of Northern Development, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, various State departments and the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations have all contributed to this evaluation. It is now nearing completion and the Australian Government will closely examine the final report. However, to ensure that the progress of phase 1 would not be held up pending the finalisation of this report, the Australian Government offered emergency assistance to the Queensland Government in April 1974 of up to $350,000 to enable the State to carry on with essential work on Gin Gin Channel. In the event, this fund was not called on because of the slackening of progress due to the unusually wet conditions. Work on the various components of phase 1 is now in full progress.

Phase 1 of the project is aimed principally at providing a surface water supply to a large number of canegrowers in order to reduce the pressure on groundwater resources to levels commensurate with the long term yield of these valuable aquifers. It will enable other canegrowers, currently with insufficient or unreliable sources of water, to stabilise production to the capacity of their sugar assignments and it will also provide water to a number of growers at present totally reliant on rainfall. In all, phase 1 will enable the stabilisation of production on 23,300 hectares, mainly under cane and will also assure a supply of about 12,500 megalitres of water annually from ground and surface sources for urban and industrial uses in Bundaberg and the neighbouring shire of Woongarra.

Phase 2 of the project has not yet been commenced. Together with phase 1, it will almost completely protect the sugar industry in the Bundaberg region against the ravages of long dry spells at critical stages of plant growth. Those familiar with the Bundaberg region will vividly recall the enormous losses sustained by the industry during the 1964, 1965 and 1969 droughts when the 6 mills in the region between them achieved only 64 per cent of their aggregate mill peak allocations. Recent seasons have been most advantageous to canegrowers throughout Australia. Seasonal conditions have been good and sugar prices, particularly during the last year, have been very high. In fact, the present London daily price is at an all-time record level of £390 sterling per ton. But the sugar industry has a long history of widely fluctuating returns from exports. In the absence of a fully effective international sugar agreement, we must secure market outlets by way of bilateral arrangements and at the same time underwrite our supply commitments by secure levels of production.

In this context, the provision of financial assistance to the Queensland Government for the construction of key elements of the Bundaberg irrigation project and for Kinchant Dam in the Mackay sugar producing region is an important aspect of our plans for the industry.

I commend this Bill to honourable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.







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