Rookwood Weir: Everything you need to know

Who is for, who is against, and where it stands


Farm Online News
Location map.

Location map.

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It has been 30 years in the making - here is where Rookwood Weir stands now.

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ROOKWOOD Weir has been talked about for 30 years, but now the Federal Government have signed off on the Environmental Impact Statement. 

Here’s a full rundown on the project as it stands.

THE POLITICS:

BUILDING Queensland, the group responsible for putting together the Rookwood Weir business case, are calling for producers to get in touch.

Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce and PM Malcolm Turnbull discuss Rookwood Weir in Rockhampton last year.

Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce and PM Malcolm Turnbull discuss Rookwood Weir in Rockhampton last year.

Project director Scott Edwards has asked local producers to register their interest if they intend to use any of the water potentially available if the weir is built. 

Meanwhile, the project is one step closer to fruition, after the Federal Government last week approved the Environmental Impact Study.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said this step made the project “shovel ready” for the State Government.

“The Nationals are all about building our regions and driving regional jobs and industry,” Minister Joyce said.

“The Coalition Government knows Rookwood Weir near Rockhampton will be a game changer for Central Queensland. It is predicted to fuel a $1 billion boom in farm production and create up to 2100 jobs.”

However, State Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said the business case, which is currently being undertaken by Building Queensland, must be completed before any decisions are made. 

“Building Queensland was deliberately set up by this (State) government to give appropriate, arms length, and informed advice,” My Byrne said. 

He said without the business case, any decision made prematurely would be irresponsible and made out of “political necessity” rather than for the good of the state.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said investment in water projects was a major part of the Coalition Government’s plan to boost the economy of the north.

PRODUCER IN FAVOUR:

ROOKWOOD DREAMS: Kate and Garrett Kirk at their Bluff property, Tallawalla.

ROOKWOOD DREAMS: Kate and Garrett Kirk at their Bluff property, Tallawalla.

FOR more than 30 years, Garrett Kirk’s parents have been talking about the proposed Rookwood Weir. 

Now it is a daily discussion in his household with wife Kate, and he said the extreme delays with the project were “frustrating”. 

“They did have to do their research and due diligence on the project, but I didn’t think that took 20 years to do,” he said. 

Mr and Mrs Kirk run a commercial breeding herd of about 2000 head over three properties covering 7285 hectares in central Queensland. 

Included in that is Riverblock, Gogango, which is on the Fitzroy River upstream of the proposed Rookwood Weir. 

Mr Kirk said the opportunities at Riverblock, if the weir progressed, included irrigation as both a drought-proofing opportunity, and to finish cattle. 

“It’s good fattening country down on the Fitzroy,” he said.

“The amount of irrigation country that is available downstream is more than people think, especially just out off the river where there is macadamia country, and a lot of tree growing areas.”

Mr Kirk is particularly interested in the opportunities for trees, with his parents’ property ideal for diversification. 

“My dad has a property across the river that would lend itself more to the trees than my block,” he said.

“He’s also got good alluvial country where you can grow peanuts or whatever you want in there.”

With the Environmental Impact Study now signed off by the Federal Government, Mr Kirk said he hoped to see the project finally go ahead. 

He said better access to water for producers on the northern side of the river would be of “huge benefit”, and he said while the government was right to weigh up the economic viability of the project, agriculturally it needed to happen. 

”It’ll be a big boost - I know it will take a little bit of time though,” he said.

With the water designated as high priority, the cost for farmers is unknown, and Mr Kirk said without that figure it would be difficult to say how many would be financially able to take up any opportunities. 

While the project has primarily been focused on providing industrial and urban water, the Gladstone Area Water Board confirmed agricultural opportunities and impacts are being investigated for the Lower Fitzroy region. 

PRODUCER, AGAINST:

ERROL Mellor, Coolibah, Gogango, is one grazier not keen to see Rookwood Weir go ahead.

Mr Mellor said Coolibah sits about two kilometres south of the proposed weir site and he has concerns about the risk of small flood events regularly impacting his property. 

ERROL Mellor, Coolibah, Gogango.

ERROL Mellor, Coolibah, Gogango.

With about 400 hectares of land and a commercial Brangus herd of 100 breeders, Mr Mellor said he held fears for his property if the weir was approved. 

At a recent community consultation meeting at Duaringa, Mr Mellor asked to see the flood modelling. He said the results were concerning. 

“If every five years that land goes under water it’ll be useless to us - it’ll be weeds and utterly worthless,” he said. 

“There’s a lot of people against it. 

“It is affecting people and at the end of the day if it is going to go ahead, we just want fair compensation.”

Mr Mellor said he and some of his neighbours were keen to see compensation discussions begin, but said he was not hopeful.

“They want to negotiate individually,” he said. 

“It depends what they’re gong to offer.

“For us it’s the future income of that land, not just the land they’re taking off us,” he said. 

WATER COSTS:

HIGHER value crops may be a necessity to make any potential water from Rookwood Weir viable for agricultural use.

CQUniversity’s Professor John Rolfe was involved in the Rookwood Weir proposal from the early 2000s with the Queensland Government, and again in 2005 when doing preliminary work with the Rockhampton Regional Council. 

Prof Rolfe, an economist, was primarily investigating whether the level of support from the agricultural sector was sufficient enough to outweigh community losses at an environmental level. 

CQUniversity’s Professor John Rolfe.

CQUniversity’s Professor John Rolfe.

Economically, he believes there are major challenges to making the project viable for agriculture. 

“It’s very hard to make irrigation pay when you have to build in the capital costs as well,” Prof Rolfe said. 

Prof Rolfe said finding enough return in the agricultural sector to justify the water prices would be a “huge problem”. 

“It would mean turning to higher value crops,” he said. 

He said options such as lucerne hay, aquaculture crops, and cotton were all possibilities, but said weighing the cost of the water was not possible until further modelling and indications were provided.

OPPORTUNITIES:

THE Gladstone Area Water Board who alongside SunWater are undertaking the investigations into the Lower Fitzroy River Infrastructure Project (including Rookwood Weir), have looked into the agricultural opportunities provided by the project. 

A spokesperson said potential agricultural gains included allowing existing entities to grow their businesses, transform existing businesses by diversifying into different crop types, and allow new entities to become established in the area, with opportunities for tree crops like macadamias.

WHAT IS NEXT: 

UNTIL Building Queensland finish the business case and it is presented to the State Government, Mr Byrne said no decision will be made on the project.

So until then, it’s back to waiting. 

The story Rookwood Weir: Everything you need to know first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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