More than 200 farmers, landowners, graziers and concerned Central Queensland locals rallied in Rockhampton today to protest the Queensland Government’s mishandling of the construction of Rookwood Weir.
The rally was organised in response to reports that a redesign of Rookwood Weir has resulted in a drop of total volume water capacity from 76,000 megalitres to 54,000 megalitres, with the water allocation for agricultural users slashed from 42,000 megalitres to 20,000 megalitres.
Incoming correspondence to the Prime Minister’s office and Deputy Prime Minister’s office shows no evidence of any formal additional requests for funding, or notifications of reduced total water volume capacity, from the Queensland Government.
The Queensland Government has unilaterally decided to reduce the total water volume capacity without any consultation with the Australian Government.
Today’s rally was attended and supported by representatives of AgForce and the Green Shirts Movement.
Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the Queensland Government needed to get serious about ensuring water security for the agriculture sector.
“The Palaszczuk Labor Government has been dragged kicking and screaming to get on board with job-creating water infrastructure and today’s demonstration shows Central Queensland has had enough,” Minister McKenzie said.
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said the Queensland Government’s priorities were skewed when it came to providing for the regions.
“The Federal Government’s share of funding for Rookwood Weir of $176 million has been on the table since 2016,” Minister Canavan said.
“Instead of asking the Federal Government for more funding through media games, the Queensland Government should take the $250 million they are giving to Brisbane-based bureaucrats and use it to build the real Rookwood Weir as originally designed.”
Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry said despite Labor’s attempts at taking over the rally with a stunt, the core message was sent to the Queensland Government.
“Today, we hosted a rally with landowners, farmers and graziers who just want a fair go with the water allocation they have been promised. Labor’s attempt at a stunt is a distraction by State Government MPs who are only concerned about their own political survival and are embarrassed by what their own party has done,” Ms Landry said.
Queensland State Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the decision to downsize Rookwood Weir showed how out of touch the Queensland Government was.
“The Palaszczuk Labor Government’s decision to cut the size of Rookwood Weir means fewer jobs, less drinking supply and less water for agriculture,” Mrs Frecklington said.
“Annastacia Palaszczuk is failing to plan for the future and failing to deliver long-term water security for communities across Rockhampton, Gladstone and the Capricorn Coast. Labor is anti-dams, anti-regions and anti-jobs.”
Larry Acton of Riverton Brafords in Gogango said despite being encouraged by early announcements about Rookwood Weir, he hadn’t witnessed any increased levels of activity.
“My property is next to the weir site on the right hand bank and I can tell you right now – not much has happened on the site for years. When Treasurer Jackie Trad announced that the public service were to be given a $1,250 bonus, it was the last straw,” Mr Acton said.
AgForce CEO Mike Guerin said farmers were forced into participating in public action like today’s rally to get their message through.
“The farmers affected by the downsizing of Rookwood Weir have legitimate concerns about their livelihoods and their communities. We need water certainty for central Queensland so we can grow our farms and provide for not just Australians but for overseas markets as well,” Mr Guerin said.
President of the Green Shirts Movement Martin Bella said water access was essential for any farmer.
“Water is the lifeblood of our regional communities and access to water is often the difference between the success and failure of farms and properties,” Mr Bella said.
State Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mander, Member for Callide Colin Boyce and Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar also attended the rally.
A petition against the redesign of Rookwood Weir has garnered more than 1,200 signatures in a week.