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Emu Swamp Dam remains divisive as election nears

HOT TOPIC: The Emu Swamp Dam remains a divisive issue as polling day nears.
HOT TOPIC: The Emu Swamp Dam remains a divisive issue as polling day nears. FILE

WATER security for the Southern Downs remains at the top of the state election agenda.

In particular, the Emu Swamp Dam as a solution for the Granite Belt remains a divisive issue as polling day nears.

After kick-starting his campaign in March, LNP candidate James Lister said he was proud of the work he has done to keep the project from stalling.

After a Southern Downs Regional Council-led study - funded by the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund - suggested there were other solutions for the dam, Mr Lister assisted then Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce to hand over the remainder of the funding to the Stanthorpe Chamber of Commerce.

Greens candidate Antonia van Geuns said there needed to be a balance between looking for natural water ways and addressing the needs of irrigators in the district, but said the latter had a big role to play in the Stanthorpe Chamber of Commerce, which hopes to further plans for the Emu Swamp Dam.

"It's my opinion that the Chamber of Commerce does represent big business and there are a lot of lobby groups involved about where to put water storage,” Ms van Geuns said.

"I think it's a very biased situation... I was particularly horrified the project was given to the Chamber of Commerce to work out.

"From what I've read a couple of the environmental impact statements (for Emu Swamp Dam) weren't readily available; it doesn't do anyone any good to have to dig out information at a later date.

"There has been that issue with transparency and ensuring citizens are being fully informed.”

Representing Labor in the electoral race, Joel Richters threw his support behind Emu Swamp Dam in theory, but questioned whether the dam would be adequate for an urban supply.

"I think it's a worthwhile project,” Mr Richters said.

"But we need to make sure there are the right safeguards in place, and there needs to be assurances about the quality of the water supply.”

One Nation has promised to revisit all proposed water security schemes, including new dam infrastructure like the Emu Swamp project, if the party forms government.

Southern Downs candidate Josh Coyne said it would also be important to enable landowners to better harness on-farm storage and use surface or ground water resources.

"During the last federal election, the Commonwealth committed $2billion to water storage infrastructure to drought-proof the nation,” Mr Coyne said.

There have been more than enough feasibility studies - what we need is action.”

Mr Coyne said current legislation, which allows farmers to freely access only 10% of water in on-farm dams, was a restriction on civil liberties.

Stanthorpe Chamber of Commerce president Ian Henderson said the group was excited to move forward and focused on completing a feasibility study for the dam.

"We don't want to make decisions based on estimates and guesses any more; we want the complete truth,” Mr Henderson said. "The outcome, after we spend another $3.5m, is we will have engineering, costings on a real dam, real pipeline and an operating model.”

Leading up to the state election, Mr Henderson said he hoped to see the government contribute to water security before 2036, when it was estimated Stanthorpe would run out of water.

"Accept that agriculture is the primary industry in this town and do what they need to to support its growth and in this case it's water,” he said.

Topics:  bush telegraph emu swamp dam qldelection2017 water security


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