Cash for existing projects wanted before Bradfield Scheme
AN INDUSTRY leader has called on both sides of government to put the brakes on their "new" Bradfield Scheme proposals, saying money would be better spent on improving existing infrastructure and ensuring the viability of growers on the coast.
The scheme was first mooted in the 1930s by engineer John Bradfield and has been revisited by both sides of government in the lead up to the state election.
Original plans involved funnelling floodwaters, and a portion of the normal flow, of the Tully, Herbert, Burdekin, Clarke and Flinders rivers to create a flow of water from North Queensland to the border.
This would create more fertile land in drought-prone areas of the state and increase the scope for agricultural production.
Bowen Gumlu Growers Association president Carl Walker said while the "new" Bradfield Scheme was a good idea, it was "not something for now".
"Now we should be putting money into making sure the infrastructure is 100 per cent in the regions that are operating," he said.
"It's a great scheme, but not for now.
"On the coast here we have our ups and downs and at times we struggle, and some of the infrastructure could be better than what it is, and there's people talking about building a new system and the old system is still not a Rolls Royce yet.
"Let's not talk about a new Rolls Royce until you fix the old one."
Mr Walker said the money that was set to be invested in planning and infrastructure could be better spent on upgrades to pre-existing infrastructure such as the Burdekin Dam and Paradise Dam.
"(We need to) really strengthen our existing industries, that's the important thing," he said.
"If you've got one corner shop struggling to make a living, do you put in another one?"
The call comes amid concerns the agricultural industry across the state may struggle to attract workers for the 2021 season as coronavirus and travel restrictions place a question mark over the largely international workforce.
One Bundaberg grower has been left with no choice but to destroy half his strawberry crop while Mr Walker said all options should be considered to bolster the picking workforce.
More competition in the agricultural sector during what is already a turbulent time for growers could threaten the future of many coastal farmers in the short term, according to Mr Walker.
"We're going to be riding around on pushbikes and way out west they're going to have a Mercedes Benz set up with the Bradfield Scheme," he said.
Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said no firm decisions had been made on the proposed scheme, including what produce would be grown and what measures would be put in place to protect the existing industry.
"The panel's job will be to assess the financial, economic, environmental, social and technical viability of 'Bradfield-like' concepts," he said.
A report on the scheme's feasibility is expected in the next 12 months.
Ms Frecklington said the New Bradfield Scheme would make up just one part of the LNP's plan to improve water security across the state.
"The LNP will establish an economic recovery agency, which will be headed by the new co-ordinator general, to kickstart major stimulus projects including the New Bradfield Scheme and fast-tracking works to ensure the Burdekin Falls Dam upgrade is shovel ready," she said.
"If I am elected Premier next month, I will also establish the Townsville based Queensland Dam Company that will build new dams and upgrade existing ones including Urannah Dam and raising Burdekin Falls Dam."
When asked how farmers on the coast could remain competitive with a "new foodbowl" in the west from the Bradfield Scheme, Ms Frecklington outlined plans to reduce water costs for SunWater irrigators by 20 per cent.