The future of Ingham’s rich agricultural sector rests on continued collaborative efforts by all three levels of government to co-ordinate weir projects along the Stone and Herbert rivers, Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto said.
An application for Federal funding to have the projects included in the National Water Grid is currently being developed by the local Council, with support from the State Water Minister Glenn Butcher and his department.
Mr Dametto said Hinchinbrook Shire Council Mayor Ramon Jayo’s vision for water security for the region, based around the construction of a number of small weirs, would ensure the Ingham community could reduce future salinity of its drinking water and utilise irrigated water for crop diversification.
“This application is being supported by the Federal Member, Bob Katter MP, and myself and the initial feedback from Barnaby Joyce’s office has been very positive,” he said.
“The Stone River weir would provide the opportunity to our district to capture and later capitalise on the water that flows through our rivers during the west season. When our growers call on the available water licences to source irrigation supply out of the Stone and Herbert rivers, the same problem is always encountered: they’re told ‘the rivers are too low’.
“Like the rest of Northern Australia, we get all our annual rainfall in one big hit around Christmas time and New Years, and the water that flows through Hinchinbrook out to sea each year is equivalent to 10-15 years’ worth of supply.
“All we are asking for with the Stone River weir is to be able to hold just a fraction of that wasted water resource back annually.”
Cr Jayo said one of his highest priorities for the Shire was to value-add to its existing, prosperous cane industry and to diversify agricultural operations including through rotational crops that can protect and improve soil health.
He said the proposed project along the Stone River would transform agriculture in the Herbert River district by reliably providing storm water for irrigation, which would help boost crop yields in areas that currently fall in a rain shadow.
Mr Katter said Mayor Jayo’s weir proposal was starting to become a reality.
“Ramon is right, we need to diversify our economy as we can’t just rely on the sugar cane industry, which we all know has big price fluctuations,” Mr Katter said.
“I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the Stone River proposal. It is easy, it is cheap and nd it will double the population of the town.
“The small crops that will be grown from the extra water supply from the weir will not sacrifice much existing cane land at all.
“We will put one thousand hectares under small crops. A hectare of small crops is worth $20,000. It will be a $20 million boost for the Hinchinbrook region.
“We thank the State and Federal Governments for coming onboard with the proposal.”