It has been a wet summer for large parts of Queensland, and tragically so for many in the south east corner. We have not had massive falls in Central Queensland but there has been enough to get by.
Soon though drought will return and we will need water stored in dams and weirs to see us through. Thankfully for us the Rookwood weir, that the Federal and State Governments are funding, will guarantee Central Queensland's water supplies.
We only have enough water in the barrages and other storage to see us through one year. That is, if we did not get rain for a year then we would need to truck water into Rockhampton just to keep water available. Once Rookwood is built though, this threat will be removed.
Rookwood will, of course, deliver other benefits. Rookwood will help double the agricultural production of the Fitzroy region and create thousands of jobs. Demand for the water from Rookwood is already over-subscribed so this extra farming will start soon after the weir is complete early next year.
But once the concrete stops pouring at Rookwood we don't want that to be the end of building dams in Central Queensland. The Federal Government has $3.5 billion to invest in water infrastructure and my job is to get as much of that funding as possible delivered here in Central Queensland.
That is why Michelle Landry, Ken O'Dowd and I hosted a CQ Water Forum in Rockhampton last week. We have been successful in attracting investment in water infrastructure in Central Queensland and we want to keep that success going.
We were joined by representatives from all levels of Government, including State Water Minister, Glenn Butcher, State MPs, Colin Boyce and Brittany Lauga, and Mayors Tony Williams and Nev Ferrier.
The best discussion came from the floor, from the people for whom water is their livelihood. Greg Hutchinson spoke passionately about how farmers in the Upper Dawson have invested over $20 million to capture more water on farm and expand farming there. They have been able to do that thanks to getting temporary access to unused water rights in the Fitzroy basin.
Greg made a strong recommendation that farmers should be able to get permanent access to this water (they are happy to pay for it) and the greater security would give them the confidence to invest in more for our region. The LNP Central Coast region passed a motion supporting Greg's idea on the weekend.
James Gleeson from Bowen River Utilities spoke about how they are raising private capital to build the Urannah Dam near Collinsville. Urannah is a huge project that would open up 20,000 hectares of new farming, help expand coal mines, by guaranteeing more water to the North Bowen Basin, and provide reliable hydroelectricity to our region. They are seeking an investment from the Federal Government's water funds, and I and my LNP colleagues are fighting hard to get this investment for our region.
The Fitzroy Basin is the second largest water catchment in eastern Australia, after the Murray-Darling. We have built dams in the Murray-Darling so that two-thirds of the annual water flows can be stored for future years. However in the Fitzroy, our water infrastructure can only store one third of annual water flows. With our investment in dams the Federal LNP Government is making sure we change that. Storing more water is like putting money in the bank and that gives people the confidence to invest and create jobs in our region.