While the drought rages on and water supplies diminish, AgForce has urged the State Government to commit to a long-term water security strategy that ensures the water needs of regional Queensland, in particular producers who rely on the vital resource.
AgForce CEO Mike Guerin said plans to support regional Queensland to reach its full potential – including agriculture’s goal to almost double farmgate’s value to $30 billion by 2030 – hinged on the availability, reliability and affordability of its water supply.
Mr Guerin was speaking at a public meeting held in Rockhampton to urge the State Government to reconsider its short-sighted decision to almost halve the capacity of the soon-to-be-constructed Rookwood Weir.
“We stand here today on the banks of the Fitzroy River and scratch our heads at the State Government’s misguided decision to ‘down-size’ the Rookwood Weir,” Mr Guerin said.
“There is no questioning the value of water, especially now. It is dust-bowl dry out here.
“The people of central Queensland, who were not consulted before the Government decided to reduce the capacity of Rookwood Weir, are rightly worried about the impact on their livelihoods and their communities, both now and into the future.
“Many producers here and in Bundaberg have invested significantly in expanding their properties or growing more valuable water-intensive crops based on having secure access to water.
“The halving of the capacities of Paradise Dam and Rookwood Weir have just placed those investments and their growth plans in jeopardy.”
Mr Guerin said the issue of water infrastructure was bigger than politics, and that he was calling on all sides to recognise the intrinsic value of agriculture, and the wider regional Queensland communities, before it was too late.
“We have an ever-growing population, which needs farmers to continue to provide high-quality food and fibre, as well as the economic and employment benefits created by exporting to the rest of the world.
“Well they can’t do it without water, and they can’t do it if the cost of accessing the water is so prohibitive that it squeezes them out of farming altogether.
“And if farmers don’t have enough water for their animals or crops, then they can’t spend their hard-earned in the main street at their favourite café or at the local hairdresser, and businesses are forced to close.
“That’s why we’re Standing Up for regional Queensland, and asking all Queenslanders, no matter their political persuasion, to stand with us.