Dam all the consultation

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New Atlantis - Chris JohnstonOn 26 April 2006 the Queensland Government announced that two dams would be built in South East Queensland; one on the Logan River, and the other on the Mary River at Traveston, near Gympie. The announcement regarding these two dams was made with little consultation or study. In the 1990s, the same location on the Mary River, Traveston, had been surveyed as the possible site for a dam, but the area was deemed unsuitable. The land at Amamoor, ten kilometres from the proposed dam site, has been set aside for a water storage facility, but this option is not being explored by the Queensland Government.

If the dam is built, the effect on people, townships, ecology and the indigenous heritage of the Mary Valley area will be nothing short of catastrophic. The Mary Valley is an excellent dairy farming area. There are also many orchards, and a small wine industry. The Mary Valley offers a very quiet alternative to Brisbane and the Sunshine coast.

The Government has proposed to resume 820 properties for the dam which will have a 150,000 megalitre storage capacity. Approximately 1000 people will be directly affected by the construction of the dam. These people will lose homes, agricultural land, sections of their property, and in some cases, their livelihood. The township of Kandanga, which is about 30 kms from Gympie, will be affected the most drastically. Approximately two hundred people live in Kandanga; the dam will result in half of the township being flooded, with the rest of the area being left within the two hundred metre buffer zone. This renders the entire area unliveable.

Sheila HollingworthThe faith life of the Mary Valley will also be seriously affected. The Kandanga cemetery will be flooded, as will an indigenous Bora ring of the Gubbi-Gubbi clan. With a reduction in the number of people in the Mary Valley due to the dam, the religious communities of the Catholic, Anglican and Uniting churches of Kandanga and Imbil will be impacted severely, both in population and in religious services.

The dam will also cut the Bruce Highway, south of Gympie, for about five or six kilometres, cut roads in the Mary Valley, and render telecommunications systems unuseable. Another expense that will arise from this already costly project is a major increase in infrastructure spending to divert Bruce Highway and other access roads to the Mary Valley. More people will lose property and homes due to the re-alignment of Bruce Highway and these service roads.

The people of the Mary Valley have been outraged by the announcement of the Dam project. The cavalier attitude of the Beattie government has not helped. When the subject is raised, locals become angry and scared at the prospect of losing their homes and their livelihoods. There is also great ire at the prospect of losing their place on the land. A community counselling service has been established by the people of the Mary Valley so that people affected can receive local emotional support.

Sheila HollingworthThe response of the people of the Mary Valley has been to organise protest marches in Brisbane. Bob Brown, the Greens Senator from Tasmania, has led a flotilla of canoes down the Mary River to highlight the issue. Petitions have been signed and local meetings, both civil and religious, have attracted great numbers, given the population of the region. Kate Molloy, the state member for Noosa, voted against the dam at a recent Labor Party conference, and is in jeopardy of losing her endorsement from the Labor Party.

What is most puzzling is the attitude of the Queensland Government. Whenever the issue is raised, Peter Beattie responds with statements such as: ‘this dam is going ahead’ or ‘people can protest all they want; this dam will still be built’. The lack of consultation from the Queensland Government has been staggering, and the concerns of the people of the Mary Valley have been ignored. The people of the area realise the South East corner of Queensland is in the grip of drought. It is clear that something has to be done to alleviate the water crisis in Queensland. But the people of the region have been told that the dam will be built, and no other options will be considered. Statements such as ‘Lose your home for Queensland’ have left the people of the Mary Valley angry and alienated from a Brisbane-centric government.

Good governance is about making hard decisions. But these decisions have to be made in the right way. Transparency and consultation are crucial to this process. By not listening, planning, or seeking the agreement of people of the region, the Beattie government has made grave errors. This issue will not go away, and the Beattie government is rapidly losing support within the Gympie and Mary Valley regions.



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Existing comments

I have been heartened by the opposition to the dam from Brisbane folk. The Courier Mail has published many stories and letters of alternatives to dams. The excellent uptake of the Bris City Council's rainwater tank rebate for example, or the saving of some 12 million litres of water a year by a club that simply changed to using waterless urinals, or the man who by expending a total of $8 fiited an extra pipe to his downpipe and kept his pool topped up with rainwater.
Recycling water to drinking standard has to be the most logical addition to a wide suite of water supply options.
We only have a water crisis because we are so totally dependent on dams. We don't need to add more; no amount of consultation will change that basic fact.

Congratulations on your article, Tony

We need to make mwa
Ian Mackay | 12 July 2006


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