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Thursday, 28 November 1974
Page: 2948

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) -The first of these 3 Bills now before the Senate to which I want to refer is the one concerning the Bundaberg irrigation scheme. This scheme was started some years ago by a Liberal-Country Party government to remove the possibility of drought occurring in the area. It was an attempt to make the area as drought-proof as possible. A considerable sum of money was provided by the previous Government for the commencement of this irrigation scheme. It was to be handled in 2 stages. The one that this Bill refers to is the conclusion of phase 1 of the scheme. A good deal of the work has been done. The dam on the Kolan River is just about finished. A channel has to go to the Gin Gin area and eventually a pumping station is to be constructed to take water into the Burnett River. For various reasons, particularly escalating costs, the amount of money originally provided has fallen short by a considerable sum. The Queensland Government asked some time ago for an additional $4.4m to complete this scheme, but in the meantime a further escalation of costs has taken place and that amount may not be enough to complete the scheme. Additional funds may be needed to complete phase 1 of this scheme.

As was pointed out when similar Bills were introduced some years ago, the Bundaberg area is well established. It is a large centre of population. It is mainly a cane growing area but some parts of the surrounding district suffer considerably in times of drought and cane yields vary considerably from year to year. When this irrigation scheme is completed it will overcome much of the difficulties that we have had in the past with the variations in yield, but it will go much further and instead of the district being mainly dependent on one crop it will promote the production of many other types of crops. This will greatly assist the whole area. The only objection that I have against this legislation is that possibly the amount of money involved is too little and it is being granted too late. It may be that we will need more money to finish the scheme. The Opposition is supporting these Bills. We want the Queensland State Government to get on with the job as soon as it can of providing water to those areas that need it and where it can be provided comparatively easily.

The next Bill refers to the Clare Weir on the Burdekin River which is one of the largest rivers in Australia in terms of volume of water. I think it is about the largest river in times of peak flooding but like many Australian rivers it runs into the sea and does get very low at times. There is a big area to be irrigated around the twin towns of Ayr and Home Hill. This weir will provide water for this district. It will enable great development to take place in this area. So far the Burdekin does not have very much water storage on its tributaries. The big city of Townsville which is not very far away from it has possibilities of great industrial development. A nickel refinery plant is to be constructed there and other development projects will need an awful lot of water in the future. Townsville itself now has a dam for flood mitigation and a dam on the Ross River which, I am told, will keep the city provided with water for probably 10 or 15 years at the most and then water will have to be obtained from elsewhere. It will have to be obtained from the Burdekin River, probably at a point much higher up the river than the Clare Weir.

I believe that this is part of a very large development of this particular area of Queensland and Australia and that the provision of a greater water supply in this area would mean an even larger development. Water from the Burdekin River can be used for industrial purposes as well as for irrigation and the provision of town water supplies. We support this scheme on the Burdekin River. We hope that it will be in operation quickly and that it can be extended so that other dams can be built on the Burdekin River. One of the southern tributaries of the Burdekin River supplies water to one of the mining developments in the Goonyella area. The provision of a water supply for that mining development is playing no insignificant part in the building up and storing of water in my State.

The other Bill concerns the Proserpine River. I understand that during the floods this year the Proserpine River broke its banks in one area. The Proserpine River Improvement Trust has been set up and it has to rebuild some levy banks and strengthen the water channels. It is a very flooded area. It is a cane-growing area. The area has been subjected to great damage during the very wet years. For this scheme $120,000 is being provided by the Federal Government, $120,000 by the Queensland Government and $60,000 by the Proserpine River Improvement Trust. I think that this scheme is under way now, and we hope that it will be finished as soon as possible.

The only other point that I should like to make about these Bills is that the Queensland State department which is responsible for these matters has always had a very good engineering and water supply staff. It has a good set-up. It has been able to lay out and build big dams in the past. Now apparently, because Federal Government money is being used in these schemes, the Snowy Mountains Authority's engineers are sent to check most of the figures. I was told for the schemes we have mentioned this afternoon that nearly $500,000 has been paid to the Snowy Mountains Authority in engineering fees just to check these matters after they have been done, I believe, in the first instance by the Queensland State department. These schemes are part of the development of water supplies in Australia. They are part of the program of trying to make as many areas as possible as drought-proof as we can make them in order that we can grow crops other than just sugar cane in particular areas. We in the Opposition wholeheartedly support these Bills and wish them a speedy passage.

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