It's a goer as State calls for EOI for Rookwood Weir
ROOKWOOD Weir is pushing ahead with the Queensland Government exclusively revealing the next stage in the process but bad blood lingers with their federal counterparts who are outraged by the implications of scaling down the water project.
Minister for Natural Resources Anthony Lynham revealed yesterday that expressions of interest for the multi-million-dollar contract to build the $352 million Rookwood Weir would open on October 2.
He said the EOI containing all relevant information and assessment criteria would go live on the QTenders website next week before closing on October 29, with an industry briefing set to be held on September 30.
"Local businesses in Central Queensland, including machinery operators, labourers, plumbing and electrical contractors, catering and office suppliers, are already registering their interest in providing goods and services to the project after a dedicated web-registry was launched earlier this month," Dr Lynham said.
"Eighty-one businesses already have lodged submission to supply goods or services to the project. The dedicated portal was launched in early September.
"We are totally committed to the construction of the weir."
Dr Lynham has confirmed the controversial plan to decrease Rookwood Weir's water capacity, incensing the LNP including local members Capricornia MP Michelle Landry and Minister for Northern Australia Matt Canavan,
"The weir will provide 34,000 megalitres of urban and industrial water for customers in Gladstone and the Capricorn Coast, with the remainder dedicated to agricultural customers," Dr Lynham said.
"The remaining water will be a mixture of medium and high priority water allocations, with the final mix to be determined by hydrological modelling."
The final water capacity for Rookwood Weir remains a mystery with the redesign process continuing.
According to The Courier Mail yesterday, Sunwater advised Commonwealth officials last month that the $352 million project had blown out in cost to $566 million - due to an increased cost for concrete.
Unable to obtain additional federal funds to deliver the originally planned 76,000 megalitre project, State Labor redesigned the weir without gates, reducing capacity to bring it down within the original $352 million budget.
The Courier Mail said the downsizing plan would see Rookwood's storage capacity drop by 22,000 megaliters from 76,000 megalitres to 54,000 megalitres - halving the 40,000 megalitres originally set aside for agriculture.
At a press conference yesterday, Ms Landry said the State's decision to reduce the weir's capacity would threaten the viability of the project, drive up the cost of water, reduce agricultural expansion and jobs, and potentially threaten Rockhampton and Gladstone's future water security.
"This is an absolute disgrace. We have one of the worst droughts this nation has ever seen and they're dilly-dallying around with these water projects," Ms Landry said.
"It just doesn't seem to stop. What in God's name are they doing. This is taking forever and everyone up here has had an absolute gut-full.
"This is about 2000 jobs and a billion dollars in agriculture and it's about keeping food in this nation.
"I'm telling Anthony Lynham and Barry O'Rourke that we will see Rookwood built and we're not going to keep putting up with their nonsense."
Speaking from South Korea, Senator Canavan echoed Ms Landry's criticism of the Queensland Government's handling of the Rookwood Weir project, accusing them of having problems with money management and their priorities.
"We've just seen over the weekend that the Queensland Government apparently has hundreds of millions of dollars to splash on bonuses for public servants that weren't required under their agreements, but apparently can't find enough money to guarantee the water and food security of Central Queensland," Senator Canavan said.
"Rookwood Weir is a generational opportunity for our region, not just to secure our water supplies but also to turn Central Queensland into a food bowl and the Queensland Government is putting all of this at risk because they can't manage the budget, and their priority is not Central Queensland."
Dr Lyham sought to allay community concerns regarding the weir saying progress was being made, thanks to money being provided solely by the State Government.
"Sunwater is continuing to deliver the project, including progressing detailed design, securing necessary approvals and purchasing land holdings," he said.
"A tender process for construction of the weir will take place early in 2020 with the contract awarded mid-2020.
"The first on-the-ground works will involve the widening and upgrade of a 16.2-kilometre section of Thirsty Creek Road by the Rockhampton Regional Council with site preparations due to start next month."
He said the upgrade will ensure the local road network can safely accommodate heavy earthmoving vehicles for the weir's construction.
Other ancillary works would be staged as needed including the Capricorn Highway upgrade at Gogango, upgrade of Hanrahan's Crossing and construction of a new Riverslea Bridge and approaches to accommodate the higher river level.
"While the redesign of the ungated weir is underway, work not specifically pertaining to the weir structure, is able to take place, such as road, highway upgrades and bridge construction.
The project will take four years," he said.
Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke and Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said the contract to build Rookwood Weir would provide a major boost to central Queensland from the jobs and economic benefits that would flow from the construction.
"Rookwood Weir is set to deliver hundreds of jobs during and after construction and will expand irrigated agricultural production in the Lower Fitzroy,'' Mr O'Rourke said.
"The project reflects the (State) Government's commitment to jobs and infrastructure in the regions.''
Mrs Lauga said Rookwood Weir would enable transition to higher value agricultural land use, facilitate new industrial business opportunities and bolster water security.
"Applications are open until 29 October and I am sure there will be considerable interest from companies in this project,'' she said.
LNP Shadow Minister for Natural Resources Dale Last said Labor clearly doesn't support the project or the jobs it will create.
"The (State) Government doesn't want to build any new dams," Mr Last said.
"Annastacia Palaszczuk is anti-dams, anti-regions and anti-farmers.
"More than 65 per cent of Queensland is drought declared including Livingstone, Rockhampton, Gladstone and key local government areas across Central Queensland."
Despite this devastating drought, Mr Last said Labor was reducing Rookwood Weir's capacity by almost one third, with the amount of water for agriculture almost halved.
"Rookwood Weir was first promised by Labor in 2006 and there still isn't a shovel in the ground," he said.
"Labor has already delayed Rookwood Weir by almost two years and this latest setback will only cause more delays and increased costs.
"The decision-makers in Brisbane have absolutely no idea what this project means to supporting agriculture as a lifeline for jobs in Central Queensland."
Mr Last promised he wouldn't stop fighting for every farming family who were being pushed to the brink.
"Only the LNP is committed to building dams and supporting our farmers by delivering water security for our regions," he said.
"LNP Leader Deb Frecklington has already announced her plan to establish the Queensland Dam Company, based in Townsville.
"Its sole purpose will be to build dams, upgrade existing ones, create new jobs and unlock the potential of the regions.
"Not only is Labor failing to build new dams they're actively reducing the size of existing dams such as the Paradise Dam.
"There's nothing more vital than water security in Queensland and Labor's policies are literally bleeding our regions dry."