Citrus industry under threat by Paradise Dam decision
THE Labor Party’s plan to lower the Paradise Dam wall will threaten the Burnett region’s growing citrus industry, worth $183 million.
The size of the citrus industry has increased over the past two decades by targeting international markets including Thailand, who now import record numbers of Queensland mandarins.
This expansion lifted the value of the produce, enabled local family-owned businesses to grow and created more employment opportunities.
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said future growth of the industry would be stopped if the Paradise Dam wall is not restored to its original height.
The Palaszczuk Government and the state-owned dam operator, SunWater, have spent $100 million removing 5.8 metres from the wall of the dam, releasing 105,000 megalitres of water to lower the capacity to 42 per cent.
“External advice has revealed that the damaged dam wall can be repaired, removing any potential threat to the community,” Mr Hancock said.
“The irony is, the government’s decision to permanently lower the wall, and the amount of water that can be held, will cause billions of dollars of damage in terms of lost revenue and potential employment opportunities to the region.”
Mr Hancock said he welcomed Opposition leader Deb Frecklington’s commitment to restore the Paradise Dam to full capacity, as well as $25 million to build the Cooranga Weir on the Boyne River and $20 million to build the Barlil Weir on Barambah Creek.
“We call on the Labour Government to match this commitment from the Liberal National Party for the growth and wellbeing of the entire region,” Mr Hancock said.
Owner and Managing Director of Carter & Spencer Craig Spencer said all investment projects for his fruit and vegetable business have been put on hold.
Before the news of the Government’s decision to lower the wall of Paradise Dam, Mr Spencer had a number of key projects underway for his Wallaville company.
“We had a major upgrade of our irrigation equipment planned on our existing farm … budgeted to cost $900 000,” Mr Spencer said.
“In addition, we had commenced developing another 42 hectares which we planned to plant citrus.
“That is money we would have spent with our local irrigation supplier; that’s jobs that are at risk now that these types of projects aren’t going ahead.”
Mr Spencer said he now has a farm he can’t fully utilise and is left with trees he can’t plant.
“We just have no faith that the dam will be restored to capacity by the current Government.”