By HARRY CLARKE
QUEENSLAND Water Minister Glenn Butcher has hit back at comments made by Scott Morrison about what the Prime Minister suggested was sluggish progress on the state’s crucial water infrastructure projects.
Speaking at the future site of the Rookwood Weir, west of Rockhampton, Mr Butcher said initial works that were underway – well before the official construction commencement in April this year – was evidence the state government was delivering on infrastructure.
“Come out to Rookwood Weir and have a look for yourself. The Queensland Government is not stepping in the way of any water projects,” Mr Butcher said.
A front page story in the Courier Mail quoted Prime Minister Scott Morrison as saying he was frustrated at what he perceived was slow progress on major water projects in Queensland, citing the the Hughenden irrigation scheme and Hells Gate Dam.
“I think water infrastructure has proved very frustrating,” Mr Morrison said.
“Whether it’s Hughenden Irrigation Scheme, or Hells Gate (dam) or any of these projects, we’ve gone through a lot of frustrations trying to get things like Emu Swamp and Rookwood Weir done.
“These things have to move more quickly than they have done.
“I’m not seeking to be critical about it, I’m just hoping during this last term of Queensland Labor Government that we can get more done on water infrastructure.”
North Queensland federal MP Bob Katter has since weighed in on the debate, saying he “welcomed greatly” the Prime Minister’s comments. But he accused the federal government of also “dragging its heels”.
“There is 7-10 years of process involved in assessments and feasibility studies for development projects in this country. They burn up time and money,” Mr Katter said.
But Mr Butcher, who took the role of Regional Development and Water Minister following the 2020 state election, said progress on the Hells Gate and Hughenden projects were well underway.
“The two projects are projects that are privately funded and are getting a private business case done,” Mr Butcher said.
“We are doing our due diligences with other projects with detailed business cases, which needs to happen before we build dams.
“It’s not just a matter of throwing up a few besser blocks and hoping it will hold water.
“These business cases need to get right into the nitty gritty, not only for the dam itself but for impacts on communities, for impacts on the environment.
“We need to make sure that all this work is done before we commit to any major projects.
“This is normal practice for large infrastructure projects. We are committed to delivering these projects. We are getting on with the job,” he said.
The $352.2 million Rookwood Weir will be located roughly 60km west of Rockhampton, damming the Fitzroy River and providing around 65,000 megalitres of water predominantly to Capricorn primary producers.
Construction is expected to be completed in 2023. It will be operated by Sunwater.