By HARRY CLARKE
ONE of the Chinchilla community’s favourite Easter pastimes will not be possible this year due to a combination of perceived poor timing by the Western Downs Regional Council and poor management by Sunwater.
The entire public recreation and ski club area at the Chinchilla Weir is currently closed due to council construction works, and will remain out of bounds to the public throughout Easter and beyond.
During a period when dozens of families would usually be flocking to the weir to enjoy waterskiing, boating and socialising, the banks of the popular waterway will remain an unsafe construction site.
The works are part of the Western Downs council’s “COVID Recovery Package” which it said was aimed to create jobs and enhance liveability to residents and visitors.
“To ensure the area is safe to the public throughout construction, access to the facilities is restricted,” the council said in a statement.
“While this is a short term inconvenience, the completed project will deliver a revamped facility which will include a range of new features such as an upgraded day use area, fire pits, shelters, bbqs, a new camp kitchen, fresh landscaping and improved overnight camping areas.”
While the upgrades overall are welcomed by local boaties and waterskiers, the weir closures mean they’ll miss out on one of what they say are increasingly rare and short periods when the weir is sufficiently full for waters ports.
“It’s disappointing that for a second year in a row there will be no water skiing at Easter,” said Ronald Thompson, a long time member of the Chinchilla Ski Club.
“Last year it was closed due to Covid, this year the council’s upgrading the site during a La Niña weather pattern. Water in the weir is irregular at best, so restricted use is not welcomed.”
Large rainfalls of up to 150mm across the Condamine River catchment have filled the Chinchilla Weir by late March. At the time of writing the weir was at 137% capacity.
Given the need for downstream crop farmers to access water for irrigation and the time period remaining for the council works to complete, any water sport this season appears unlikely.
Chinchilla Ski Club spokesperson John Johnson said the timing of the council works was particularly disappointing, given that periods of high water at the weir appeared to becoming shorter and rarer.
“We’re happy that the council is spending money out at the weir and that the facilities are being upgraded. That’s what we’ve been asking for, for years,” Mr Johnson said.
“It’s a shame that we’ve got water now and we can’t use it. Perhaps they could have done something to open the boat ramp and cordoned off other areas.”
He said that since management of the weir was taken over by government-owned operator Sunwater, water appeared to be released sooner after rainfall and in larger quantities.
“It just seems the water’s not managed for the general public anymore. I’m not against irrigation, I just think the water is for everybody,” Mr Johnson said.
“The weir is a fantastic thing for the town but there’s rarely any water there now.”
In a statement Sunwater said the Chinchilla Weir was managed in accordance with the Chinchilla Water Supply Scheme’s operations manual, which is approved by the Queensland Government.
“Our responsibility is to store water in the weir and deliver to customers when ordered and in accordance with the scheme’s operations manual,” the statement said.
“Irrigators hold water allocation rights from the weir, which entitles them to water depending on availability.”