DEEP POTENTIAL: Southern Downs Regional Council is looking to sell raw water from and establish paid camping at Connolly Dam.
DEEP POTENTIAL: Southern Downs Regional Council is looking to sell raw water from and establish paid camping at Connolly Dam. Contributed

Plans to tap into Connolly Dam cash flow

AS SOUTHERN Downs Regional Council looks to pay down debt, attention has turned to creating a revenue stream from one of its largest assets.

Connolly Dam is poised to host a new campground and the council is also exploring options for selling water from the dam.

At its latest meeting, SDRC approved an expressions of interest process on the sale of raw water from the council- owned dam, which has a total capacity of 2592ML.

Council CEO David Keenan said most of the drinking water in Warwick was supplied from Leslie Dam, owned by Sunwater.

"The water (in Connolly Dam) does get used sometimes but for the most part it is just sitting there,” Mr Keenan said.

"There is the potential to do more work to support agribusiness in the area and create an income stream.”

Individuals and businesses now have until September 7 to lodge EOIs.

Mayor Tracy Dobie said the process would help identify consumers to connect to Connolly Dam.

"This is about maximising the returns from one of (the) council's largest assets and finding what is an accept- able charge,” Cr Dobie said.

The sale of water follows the approval of a 20-site eco-friendly campground earlier this year.

A $150,000 amenities block - including a male shower, toilet and urinal, two female showers and a toilet and a unisex toilet for disabled access - is expected to be installed by the end of next month.

SDRC community services and major projects manager Michael Bell said the council was having the building made and lifted into the site.

"Grant funding has covered $120,000 of the cost of the building,” Mr Bell said.

"The campground won't be powered but the toilet block will be solar-powered.

"The council will also need to make some modifications to the entry roads and improve the signage, which is likely to cost a further $50,000 to $100,000.”

Warwick and District Fish Stocking Association secretary Ed Kemp said the facilities would be essential to preserving the pristine spot.

"It's a magnificent spot and I think the campground is more geared towards the grey nomads but hopefully will help to bring in more tourists to the region,” Mr Kemp said.

"The association stocks Connolly Dam under the Stock Impoundment Permit Scheme and the Queensland Government has capped our funding this year.

"We have discussed the potential for the council to set aside some funding to help us maintain the native fish in the dam once they get this camping area up and running; it wouldn't have to be much money.”

The council said the property for the campground was within the rural zone and on the edge of the dam, and there would be no adverse impact on the land or water.

Concerns for both tourist and visitor safety resulting from increased traffic on Connolly Dam Rd were raised at a council Q&A session in Warwick on Wednesday night.

Mr Keenan said Federal Government Black Spot Funding might be used to upgrade sections of the road leading up to Connolly Dam, with the possibility for resheeting funding to go toward the upgrade.

The council had intended to build the campground in three stages, with stage one to involve building the first 12 of 20 sites and re-levelling the road into the site.

Stages two and three would have the amenities block installed and the remaining sites set up.

Mr Bell said stage two would now precede stage one due to the funding availability.

"The installation of the ablution facility sooner will mean council can expedite moving to stage three.”

Campers can stay for between three and seven nights and cannot bring pets or boat on the dam.

Guests will also be required to bring their own water supply.

Cr Dobie said a nightly fee would be set once construction of the campground finished.

Former chair of Warwick Tourism and Events Majella Kahler said the park was a move in the right direction for regional tourism.

"If the council treats Connolly Dam like it's a commercial operation then I welcome it,” Mrs Kahler said.

"All visitors are important to our region and at peak periods like Easter and Christmas there is a huge demand to have sites like this by the water.

"As long as it's on a level playing field with other commercial operators and the ratepayers aren't just subsidising others' holidays, it will be beneficial.”

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