Dam frustration compounded by drought

Dam frustration compounded by drought
September 23 2021

Two years on from the decision to lower the wall of the Paradise Dam, CANEGROWERS says a lack of direction for the future of the water storage is adding insult to the injury of the region’s drought and pushing the impact into 2022 and beyond.

CANEGROWERS Isis Chairman Mark Mammino is calling for the 50% water price rebate being offered for horticulture crops to be extended to other irrigated crops.

“We are trying to farm in continuing drought conditions with only 22% of our water allocations available to use in the Paradise part of the irrigation scheme,” Mr Mammino said. “Even though only 22% of the water is available, we still have to pay the high fixed charges on the total nominal allocation no matter what is available for use.

“The Queensland Government could show some compassion and provide us with immediate financial relief by making its inequitable water price reduction policy fairer and extending the 50% rebate to all crops.

“It’s so frustrating that we have excellent sugar prices but not the water to get the most out of our cane crop this year or next, because now is when the young cane should be getting a start for 2022."

It’s not just sugarcane which is being held back in the Childers and Bundaberg regions.

“Some cane growers who usually grow peanuts in rotation are holding back on preparations for a crop because it’s too dry,” Mr Mammino said. “That means the 2022 peanut harvest from February to June is also at risk.

“No wonder growers are questioning what the situation would be like if the 100,000+ megalitres of water wasn’t released from the dam two years ago to allow for work to start. Would we have better allocations now if that water was still in the system and would our crops and farm finances be looking healthier?”

The immediate anxiety is on top of the long-running frustration about a lack of clear direction for the future of water storage in the region. This uncertainty is having significant impact on grower’s mental health.

“We’ve been waiting and waiting for various reports on the options for the future of the dam to be completed and handed down but nothing seems to be happening,” Mr Mammino said.

“We’ve been calling for a quick decision but two years on we are still unable to move on and plan our futures with any certainty. The Government needs to come clean on what the future of irrigation in this region will look like.”