$6M investment secures future of agriculture, says grower
EMU Swamp Dam is expected to help the Granite Belt overcome its agricultural “Achilles’ heel” after a $6 million state government funding advance was announced last week.
Applethorpe dam investor Nathan Baronio said the game-changing decision was “long overdue”.
As a strawberry and apple producer Mr Baronio was one of the many Granite Belt farmers to suffer under the weight of the worst drought in history.
“The last two years solidified that you can’t do much without water,” Mr Baronio said.
“The whole district is hurting, whether it be from not planting, or severe drought damage to fruit, or high salt issues with the diminished water supply.
“Our water security has been really, really poor and to know a step forward has been taken on the Emu Swamp Dam project is just fantastic.”
The $84 million irrigation project, funding by producers, the Federal Government and the State Government, will provide up to 3900 megalitres of water every year to local farmers through a 117km pipe network.
If all goes to plan, construction could be completed as early as 2022.
According to Mr Baronio, the additional infrastructure will ensure the “truly remarkable growing region” remains one of Australia’s strongest, well into the future.
“I will mean a lot,” he said.
“You cannot grow without water and to have an irrigation scheme that will provide three years of water with no rain is just so vitally important.
“When you have that water security you can invest more into what you do. You can’t put big bucks into projects when you don’t have a crop once every three years.”
The completed project is estimated to create another 700 jobs within the agricultural industry and Mr Baronio said that’s no surprise.
“There will be more stable employment,” he said.
“If you have no water, you have less plants and so you have less jobs.
“This dam will mean we can expect a base amount of crop every single year.”