KENNEDY MP, Bob Katter, is calling on the State Government to prioritise inland North Queensland communities over cotton growers from down south, when it allocates 145,000 mega-litres in the Flinders River catchment later this year.
Qld’s Water Minister, Glen Butcher said mines and irrigators would be vying for the Flinders River catchment water, including the Hughenden Irrigation Project (HIPCO).
HIPCO will complete a detailed business case in October and then the 190,000 mega-litre dam and irrigation scheme will be shovel ready for construction. The project has already been allocated $180m from the Morrison Government, which was announced in November 2018.
Mr Katter says the scheme will see Hughenden grow from 1,200 people to 10,000.
“We need to reverse the town’s decline which began 30 years ago when the wool industry was deregulated, and subsequently when the State Government privatised the railways and sacked all the workers,” Mr Katter said.
“The fight for the future of inland Australia begins at Hughenden. We can create 200 farms and fatten cattle which will generate the need for a meatworks in the town.
“But the farms must be under a ballot system so that locals have first go at getting a block, and it will be an owner-operator-occupier model. This means that 200 families will be living on this land around Hughenden and of course there will be hundreds more jobs generated in the town itself from the flow-on-effect.”
Mr Katter said it would be a huge blunder if the Flinders River water allocation was instead given to cotton growers from southern Queensland and New South Wales.
“They will fly in and out of the towns in their jets, and the population of the Mid-West will not grow at all. The money will stay with the ‘Cotton Kings’ and not the locals,” he said.
“In fact, if you look at Wee Waa, Australia’s cotton capital, the population actually decreased when irrigated cotton crops were introduced.
“But the populations of Mareeba, Emerald and Griffith all exploded when irrigation projects were introduced, and owner-operator farmers moved onto the land.”
Chairman of HIPCO, Shane (Sheep) McCarthy, said the project has reached a go/no-go stage where the fate of the project is in the hands of the State Government and the current water allocation process.
“The Minister Glen Butcher has visited Hughenden and met with the board several times, he is very positive about the project,” Mr McCarthy said.
“The water demand for the HIPCO project is still currently oversubscribed after the second completed round of expression of interests which is a very strong indicator for future markets and the viability of this project.
“The Federal Government continues to be extremely supportive and as a group we have continued to meet the obligations of the detailed business case for both levels of government. What all these projects need are Ministers who act in the interests of the state and north Qld and are willing to back the pioneers’ vision. We are hopeful that Minister Butcher translates his positives comments about this project and others into action. We need dozers on the ground before the next big wet.
“Nobody is interested in anymore studies, quite simply our towns are dying, and we won’t have another generation of farmers left to peruse development in the north. The time is now.”