OPINION By Barnaby Joyce
TODAY’S Northern Daily Leader’s front page story [High and Dry: Tamworth facing toughest water restrictions in seven years, Thursday, July 10, 2014] is yet another endorsement why Australia needs more dams.
It’s a dire warning: the city is on the cusp of Level 3 water restrictions and residents will soon be restricted to using buckets and watering cans only in and around their homes
Since my appointment by Prime Minister Tony Abbott to chair his Dams Committee, I have constantly illustrated the dire problem of a shortage of stored water facing this country’s growing population.
In 1980 we were able to store 4.5 megalitres of water per person. Now it’s 3.5Ml of stored water per person and by 2050 we’ll be at 2.5Ml per person, which is way below where it needs to be. On 30 June storage data indicated the nationally stored amount of water was 60 per cent behind the total the same time 12 months ago.
The augmentation of Chaffey dam to increase the storage capacity from 62,000 to 100,000 megalitres and will safeguard the future of the city of Tamworth and surrounds for many years.
The Prime Minister’s Dams Committee should have a report to hand down within a matter of weeks and while it has an Australia-wide perspective there are several options being considered in this region. The Apsley River Dam to the east of Walcha, the Mole River proposal in the north of the New England Electorate and just across the border near Stanthorpe is the Emu Creek proposal.
The last major agricultural dam built in this state was Split Rock which was completed in 1987.
Generally the fights you find when building a dam are many and varied. Conservationists don’t want you to build dams because they don’t like it. The established bureaucracies don’t want you to build dams because they find them too much work.
State governments don’t want to build dams because of the political ramifications of an extensive campaign by the Green movement on urban seats.
There is just a general inertia - you have to break through. But the peculiar thing is, when you walk down the street, everybody wants you to build them.
Today’s story in the Leader would reinforce that overwhelming need for water to help prime our growing economy.
The natural path of inertia is the greatest threat in nation building. We have created so many protections it’s protected us from doing anything.
The Snowy Mountains Scheme would never have been built today. Imagine the protestors. They’d be dressed up as koalas and chained to bulldozers – it’d just go nowhere.
We have problems in this town even building sub-divisions because of specified grasses.
We’re going to work with the people who want to work with us to build dams and I strongly believe that is the majority of the community.
We want projects that would move to the point of greatest participation, including the community and the government.
I’m absolutely prepared for the fight. The fact is, 30 per cent of the people will go apoplectic at the thought you would dare to dam a stream.
The pendulum has swung too far; it’s time for us to get some balance.
Barnaby Joyce MP
Federal Member for New England
Deputy Leader of The Nationals
Minister for Agriculture