AgForce has commended both sides of politics for their vision in taking a fresh look at the pre-war Bradfield Scheme, saying it had 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.
“It was encouraging to see renewed interest in the Bradfield scheme from both LNP leader Deb Frecklington and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this week.
“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 dollar a year agricultural powerhouse for Australia, we must have access to reliable and, very importantly, affordable water.
“Rural and remote communities in Queensland need economic opportunities to grow and prosper and well-designed water projects are a part in delivering on these needs.
“However, access to reliable and affordable water is also critical to increase the State’s drought preparedness as we adapt our agricultural systems to increasing climate variability.”
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.”
Mrs Somerset said affordability would be a limiting factor.
“The cost of water will be a key issue as the government expects users to pay for planning, construction and ongoing maintenance of water infrastructure,” she said.
“Energy prices are also a challenge – the cost of pumping water leaving many existing schemes underused.”