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Rookwood Weir makes driest year even worse for graziers in central Queensland

Thursday May 20, 2021 - 04:29 EST
ABC image
Central Queensland grazier Ann Kirk's property on the right of the Rookwood Weir site. - ABC

Farmers who lost land for the construction of a new Central Queensland water project claim they?ve been left high and dry without agreed compensation or access to irrigation.


Sunwater's Rookwood Weir project has been touted as a landmark project for central Queensland ? expected to bolster the region's water security by capturing water in the lower Fitzroy River.


However, local graziers whose land has been compulsorily acquired to build the dam say they have not yet received agreed compensation and are losing money and time catering to Sunwater's access and construction needs.


Construction began earlier this month and farmers say it has left them unable to access prime land or use irrigation.


A Sunwater spokesman said the company was working closely with the community and stakeholders to minimise impacts and would be compensating affected landholders.


Reduced herd


It has been the driest year grazier Ann Kirk remembers.


Ms Kirk said she had been unable to irrigate parts of her property ? on the western bank of the weir site ? due to Sunwater acquiring her land for construction and an access road.


She said the current season was the worst on record and the lack of irrigation had forced her to reduce her cattle numbers even further.


"They needed to buy some of our country, which is irrigation country as it's on our centre pivot area," Ms Kirk said.


"We can't use that irrigation area, that centre pivot, and that's been difficult with the dry because we haven't had a wet season this year.


"You can't use your irrigators to put the cattle on so you have to reduce your cattle numbers to adjust to that capacity to be able to keep them going."


A Sunwater spokesman said the Office of the Governor-General had compulsorily acquired land to meet the project's deadlines and was working with landholders' legal representatives to finalise compensation. 


Ms Kirk said she had not yet received compensation from Sunwater.


Lack of information


Farmer Brett Coombe said the lack of communication about the project was "frustrating".


He said the weir was expected to raise the river height, which would require farmers to upgrade their irrigation infrastructure.


"At the moment we can pump from any site we've got but once the weir goes in we won't be able to do that because our system is not set up for it," he said.


"That's why we want to make sure they help us ? to get it compensated so that we can still pump [water]."


Both Ms Kirk and Mr Coombe said communication and consultation with stakeholders needed to improve.


"We have always been pro the weir ? and we are still for it but we don't like how we've been dealt with," Ms Kirk said. 


"We haven't actually been given an actual height of where the river is going to bank up too.


"We can't put any plans in place for an irrigation pump until we know exactly where the water is coming to as none of that information has come forward."


Mr Coombe said he had requested Sunwater undertake preliminary engineering work to ensure that irrigation infrastructure was upgraded before the weir was completed.


"We need to get that done because what's going to happen if the weir gets built and the water level comes up? We've got to really have all that stuff done in the next 12 months," he said.


A spokesman said Sunwater had worked with 28 landholders regarding permanent and temporary land acquisition for the site.


"We have agreed to compensation for necessary upgrades to several affected landholders' infrastructure and will continue to work with additional landholders and independent experts to agree to reasonable outcomes," they said.


The spokesman said the company held community meetings and operated a project hotline.







- ABC

© ABC 2021

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