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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 171

Mr NEVILLE (12:49 PM) —I would like to talk briefly today about various aspects of water in my electorate and in my potential electorate. Many years ago, 30 years ago, I was instrumental in getting John McEwen to come to Bundaberg to initiate Commonwealth involvement in what was then known as the Burnett-Kolan scheme. It became a state-Commonwealth matter that ended up in the Bundaberg irrigation scheme, with 1,200 farms connected to one form or other of irrigation, be that river, pipe or channel. The scheme has moved on from there, and, in the government’s water initiative, the Prime Minister announced that the Bundaberg groundwater scheme would be tackled. The Bundaberg groundwater scheme is located in the area to the east of Bundaberg—between the Hummock, which is our only hill, and the ocean. That area had a very fine aquifer but, because of excessive demand on that aquifer for irrigation, a partial vacuum formed in the aquifer and dragged in salt water. That was one of the things that was the genesis of the Bundaberg irrigation scheme.

Surprisingly, part of this area which is known as the Wongarra system has never been finished. The Bundaberg groundwater scheme is in the water initiative for completion. I urge the government to get on with this. I am somewhat annoyed that the state government did not have the planning ready for it. After all, the Bundaberg irrigation scheme—as you would know, Mr Deputy Speaker Causley, being in the sugar business yourself—offered a whole series of solutions. It now has two dams: the Fred Haig Dam—or Lake Monduran, as it is sometimes known—and the more recent Paradise Dam. It connects the whole area from north of Bundaberg right down to Childers.

As that part of the scheme is 35 years old, it beggars belief that the plans were not ready to immediately implement this when the Commonwealth money became available. In fact, about half a million dollars had to be spent in reorientating the plans. I am not sure whether they are finished or about to be finished but, when you have a water initiative like this and the plans are not on the shelf ready to go, it is a blinding shame. I call on the government to immediately implement that as soon as we get these plans from the state government. For all those cane farmers and fruit and vegetable growers in that Wongarra system in the Bundaberg groundwater area—many of whom will have to move to pipes, as distinct from the aquifer—we must get on with it, protect that delicate aquifer and get that land that could be very productive back into production. In fact, my predecessor—and my friend, I might add—Brian Courtice, the former member for Hinkler, actually lives in that system, and I know Brian would welcome it very much.

The other thing I would like to talk about just briefly is the Elliott River. The Elliott River is dying because two channels were cut in the mouth. When the tide comes in through the two openings, it starts to drop sand. When the tide goes out, because the flow is split between the two openings, there is not sufficient rush to take the sand out. The sand drops in and the basin is slowly building up. The river and the mangroves will eventually die. I have had the former environment minister, Senator Ian Campbell, come to see that, and I have invited the current minister to come to Bundaberg and have a look at that with me. It does not need rocket science; it does not need half-million-dollar studies; it simply needs some dredging and some filling of a river mouth and, perhaps using a Work for the Dole scheme or a Green Corps scheme, to rebuild the isthmus that would be created by filling that second channel. Those are two important things in my electorate which I would like to see done. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.

Main Committee adjourned at 12.54 pm, until Wednesday, 8 August 2007, at 9.30 am, unless in accordance with standing order 186 an alternative date or time is fixed.