It has been a tough week for many Queenslanders. I know people that have had their homes flooded for the second time in just over a decade and, more tragically, nine Queenslanders have lost their lives.
Natural disasters bring out the best in our communities. Thousands of people have helped and our emergency services and defence forces have put themselves in harms way to save lives. For many though the next few months will be tough as the cameras leave and the clean up continues.
Notwithstanding their tragic impact, these floods once again prove the need for Australia to build dams again.
When the 2011 floods hit Queensland, the then LNP Federal opposition established a Dams Taskforce to scour the country for dam sites so that we can make more use of flooding rains. Dams can't stop all the damage that floods do but they can reduce the harm and create a wealth of opportunity for the future.
At the time I worked for the Shadow Water Minister, Barnaby Joyce, and was given the task of writing our report on dams. At the time, Australia had not built a major dam for a generation. This had meant that our water storages had not kept pace with the growth in our population. In 1980 Australian dams could hold enough water to supply Australia’s water needs for almost seven years. If no new dams are built, Australia's storage capacity will fall to below four years supply by 2050.
We examined more than 100 proposals, many of which had been gathering cobwebs on the shelves of old Public Works Departments. We could not build all of these but it was clear that there were many worthy proposals that had been put in the too hard basket. We were committed to overcome these hurdles and upon being elected to government in 2013 we established a dams fund.
Through this work Australia is building dams again. We have now invested over $3 billion in building new water infrastructure with more to come.
Right now concrete is being poured at the Rookwood Weir in the Fitzroy River, and when finished over the next year it will help double farm output in Central Queensland.
But we are not stopping there. This month we announced that we would help fund the reconstruction of the Paradise Dam near Bundaberg returning water security to a rich farming area.
We are funding the Urannah Dam near Collinsville. Urannah would open up around 20,000 hectares of new farming land, Moranbah would have security for town water and a 1400 megawatt pumped hydro system would provide reliable electricity.
The water will also help coal mines through the northern Bowen Basin. Demand for our coal is booming, once again defying the doomsayers.
Before the Fairbairn Dam was built in 1972, the town of Emerald had a population of just 650. In the same year the town of Collinsville had a population of 2000.
Following the dam’s construction, Emerald’s population grew by almost 20 times and 13,500 people live there today. Collinsville’s population has instead halved and sits at just 1000 today.
This shows the power of dams. Dams store water, create jobs and build towns. Our country does not lack water we just need the will to think and build big so that we can store water for the dry times.