Earlier today Minister Lynham responded to industry and community calls for greater transparency around the issues plaguing Paradise Dam in announcing an independent inquiry led by former judge John Byrne AO.
“The terms of reference for this inquiry, to be released next week, must include not just structural and stability issues, but also the failures to properly consult and communicate with the community,” said Growcom CEO David Thomson.
“Overnight and without any prior warning irrigators received a text message that tens of thousands of gigalitres would be released from Paradise within the next day or so. And since then many of the same questions remain.
“An inquiry is important, but it simply cannot in any way hold up work towards resolving structural issues and restoring certainty and confidence to the region.”
The Queensland horticulture industry has raised its collective concern as serious questions remain unanswered on the future of Paradise Dam.
“This is a worrying precedent. The entire industry is watching on with keen interest,” said Joe Moro, Chair of the Queensland Horticulture Council.
“It’s not a huge leap for growers in other parts of the state to imagine with a sense of dread what would happen to their own businesses should something similar happen with their local water storage.”
The Queensland Horticulture Council is the preeminent forum for deliberating and determining horticulture policy in Queensland. It is comprised of representatives from Growcom and each of the major regionally-based grower groups and associations.
At its most recent meeting the Council discussed likely impacts of any reduction in capacity of Paradise Dam, including new tree crop plantings that might be left high and dry and the flight of capital investment already being witnessed from the region.
“We are extremely concerned that, assuming no significant inflows are received between now and July, the allocation for irrigators may be as low as 16 per cent, which is simply unsustainable for the vibrant progressive agriculture industry,” said Bree Grima, Managing Director of Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers.
“This area is now the largest growing region of macadamias in Australia. Tens of thousands of trees have been planted in the last five years with many more planned. Producers had only purchased the water allocation they needed for young plants, knowing they could purchase more water as they matured.
“Now this reliability has been taken away it has jeopardised these plantings. Producers are justifiably anxious about their crops and livelihood.”
The Queensland Horticulture Council reaffirmed its position that total water storage capacity in the catchment is maintained.
“Water in a dam is like money in the bank,” said Mr Moro.
“The horticulture industry is brilliant at transforming stored water into quality fresh produce, and ultimately into wealth, jobs and thriving regional communities.
“What’s happening at Paradise Dam is making growers across the state nervous. They want a signal from the Queensland Government that our industry is a priority as the engine of so much regional growth and prosperity.
“A commitment to raising the Paradise Dam wall back up or ensuring no capacity is lost within the catchment is the vote of confidence from this Government that our industry needs right now.”
What is the QHC? The Queensland Horticulture Council is the preeminent forum for deliberating horticulture policy in Queensland. It is led by Growcom and is comprised of representatives from each of the major regionally-based grower groups and associations.