More dams: Nats float campaign on ambitious water projects

More dams: Nats float campaign on ambitious water project pitch


Farm Online News
Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Photo by Dominic Lorrimer.

Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack. Photo by Dominic Lorrimer.

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McCormack to announce new $100m dam building authority in election campaign speech in Canberra on Tuesday.

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The Nationals are promising more dam building under a re-elected Coalition government, pledging $100 million to establish a statutory authority to oversee new infrastructure projects.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Michael McCormack will announce plans for an agency to plan large scale projects to deliver water to farmers and regional communities.

"We know the key to unlocking the potential of regional Australian the answer is simple - just add water," Mr McCormack will say in his speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday.

"But we are being bold and building big and that's why we will establish the National Water Grid and its first order of business will be to look at how large scale water diversion projects could be established to deliver reliable and cost effective water to farmers and regional communities."

The new agency, dubbed the National Water Grid, would use "the best available science" and ignore political agendas, Mr McCormack will say.

The authority would bring together all relevant staff currently working on water policy and water infrastructure, and report to the responsible minister.

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The National Water Grid would create a national register of current and future water infrastructure and identify missing links.

New dams and infrastructure will be required to increase water security for human and food production needs, expand agriculture and create regional jobs, Mr McCormack will say.

"Right across our nation, our regional communities experience droughts and flooding rains and we need states to work more closely hand-in hand with the Federal Government to better capture and store water as well as protecting our communities from devastating flood," Mr McCormack will say.

The National Water Grid authority would work with state governments to co-ordinate investments through the Council of Australian Governments.

Dammed promises

New dams are the white whale of rural politics - often talked about but rarely sighted in the flesh.

The National Water Grid will be met with questions about how a new authority would add impetus for new water infrastructure, beyond that of the federal agency Infrastructure Australia.

An independent statutory Authority, Infrastructure Australia advises government on community and industrial needs. It released its list of priority projects in February.

Dams do not feature among its list of 29 high priority projects, but there are three water supply works and one flood mitigation project among its 75 secondary-priority projects.

Infrastructure Australia said upgrades would be required to the Wellington dam in Western Australia, which supplies the Myalup Irrigated Agricultural Precinct.

Darwin's water supply also featured. Expanded capacity will be needed to meet future population and industrial growth.

Lastly, Tasmania's farmers would benefit from irrigation infrastructure, to enable them to switch to higher-value production systems.

Earlier this month Scott Morrison pledged a future Coalition government would invest $100m in five water supply projects across the state.

Warragamba dam in south-west Sydney will also need to be raised for flood mitigation in a growing area of the city.

Water delivery

The Coalition has established a $1.3 billion National Water Infrastructure Fund, which has about $700m in uncommitted funds, with most of the money being spent on studies.

Some substantial works are underway in Queensland, with $54m committed to the first stage of the Hells Gate Dam on the Upper Burdekin River and up to $180m for the Hughenden Irrigation Scheme on the Flinders River.

The Coalition has also pledged $10 million investment for a business case and pre-construction works on the Urannah dam project, between Rockhampton and Mackay.

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