Weirs study needs State funding

Kennedy MP Bob Katter, Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto, local farmer Chris Butler and Hinchinbrook Shire Mayor Ramon Jayo at Stone River late last year.

A TRANSFORMATIONAL water storage proposal for growers in the Stone River district could be accelerated if the State Government provided funding for a council study, says Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto.

Mr Dametto said Hinchinbrook Shire Council’s plan to construct weirs along the Stone River was the key to crop diversification that “deserved the backing of the State”.

“The State Labor Government should ask themselves whether they want agriculture to flourish or fail, because their track record over the past few years has been dismal,” he said.

“Last year, Kennedy MP Bob Katter and I joined Hinchinbrook Ramon Jayo to assess a potential weir site that would benefit growers in driest part of the Stone River catchment,” Mr Dametto said.

“The climate is drier and yields are generally lower compared to other parts of the District, but if you had one or two weirs along the river that could store water during periods of flooding, growers wouldn’t run into the pumping restrictions they are currently facing.”

Cr Jayo said irrigation for Stone River via weirs would not only encourage farmers to diversify into supplementary crops to cane but also help “finish off” those crops so they would be ready for harvest during times when rainfall was insufficient.

Supplementary crops that could benefit from the water storage proposal include soybeans, mung beans, peanuts and dryland rice.

Cr Jayo said while council had been working with DNRME on water access issues in the Stone River area, funding for a comprehensive study would be used to accelerate the weir proposal.

“At the moment, the studies that are needed have to be funded by council and so we need to budget for those, but that depends on what other priorities we have at the time,” he said.

“Council has to do studies first to ensure there is no adverse environmental impact and unless you can establish that, you’ll never go anywhere.”

Mr Dametto said he would be writing to Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham requesting funding so council can conduct a comprehensive study into the water storage proposal.

“While I still believe DNRME has all the resources necessary to do their own study, if the Department is insistent on council conducting it then the Department should at the least provide the funding for it,” Mr Dametto said.

“Water infrastructure projects fall under DNRME and unfortunately, we are constrained by their departmental processes if we are to progress any of these projects. Once again, the State Labor Government is willing to drain the coffers of local government when it should be their responsibility for footing the bill for regional development.”

Nick Dametto MP