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More momentum for Hells Gates dam project

10 April 2019

Joint media release with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, The Hon Michael McCormack MP, Senator for Queensland, The Hon Ian Macdonald and Member for Dawson, George Christensen MP

The Hells Gates Dam project has taken another big step forward with Townsville Enterprise Limited selected to undertake a comprehensive business case.

An announcement of this exciting development, for this significant water delivery project, was made in Townsville today by senior members of the Federal Liberal and Nationals Government.

This initiative forms part of the Federal Government’s $500 million expansion of the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund to more than $1 billion, added to the existing $2 billion for the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility program.

This represents an investment opportunity of more than $3 billion to support State and Territory Governments, and project partners, to build new water infrastructure to boost water security and grow social and economic opportunities, especially in regional Australia.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said compiling a business case is the first major milestone towards the Hells Gates Dam project’s development.

“The Coalition Government is investing up to $24 million to develop the business case, which is the first major milestone towards progressing the project,” Mr McCormack said.

“The Coalition has also committed $30 million to fast track construction of the Big Rocks Weir, subject to the outcomes of the business case.”

Mr McCormack said a feasibility study had identified potential economic and social benefits in advancing this major irrigated agricultural and power project on the upper Burdekin River.

“The business case will include an environmental impact study and detailed geotechnical and cultural heritage assessments, which are absolutely critical to informing the final design of the project,” he said.

“In March this year, we established the North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority to provide the strategic planning and coordination needed to deliver water security and boost agriculture throughout the region.

“I am pleased the Authority is already taking steps towards implementing important projects such as the Hells Gates Dam.”

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Senator Matthew Canavan said more water infrastructure could help unlock the immense economic potential of the north.

“The Coalition Government has made it a priority to accelerate the business case for the Hells Gates Dam project, including the Big Rocks Weir, to ensure that Northern Australia has the right water infrastructure in place for the future.”

Minister Canavan said more than $680 million has been committed in Northern Australia to identify and build water infrastructure that supports the growth of regional economies and communities.

“This includes five projects in Queensland: $200 million for water security for Townsville; $182 million for the Hughenden Irrigation Scheme; $176 million to co-fund the Rookwood Weir in Central Queensland; $54 million for the Hells Gates Dam project, including Big Rocks Weir; $11.6 million for the Mareeba Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme Efficiency Project; and $3 million for the Nogoa-Mackenzie Water Supply Scheme Efficiency Project,” he said.

“The Federal Government has committed $9.6 million in this year’s Budget to establish the North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority.

“Also, we are investing more than $50.5 million on 19 feasibility studies, including $18.5 million for water resource assessment across four catchments in Northern Australia.”

Townsville-based Senator Ian Macdonald said the Coalition is determined to build new water infrastructure to secure water supplies across Australia, especially Northern Australia.

“Our investment in the Hells Gates Dam project is yet another example of the Government’s commitment to deliver the water infrastructure that our regional communities need to grow and thrive.

“We want to open up the north and continue to implement the strategic vision outlined in the Government’s ‘Our North, Our Future: White Paper on Developing Northern Australia’.

Member for Dawson George Christensen said he was pleased the contract to develop a business case for the Hells Gates Dam project is going to a Townsville-based consortium.

“Townsville Enterprise oversaw the feasibility study and will lead this vital next step in the process to prepare a business case,” Mr Christensen said.

“This will mean keeping jobs here and, in that way, the Hells Gates Dam project is benefitting the region through funding and jobs long before any construction work even commences.

“In the longer term, Hells Gates Dam has the potential to be a nation-building project with enormous economic benefits for the region, the State and the nation.”

The announcement was also strongly welcomed by LNP Candidates for Kennedy Frank Beveridge and Herbert Phillip Thompson who have also been working hard to help bring the Hells Gates and Big Rocks projects come to fruition.

“Having been personally involved in promoting the Big Rocks Weir project for more than 10 years, I am excited to see the Coalition Government getting on with the job and taking this next big step in making it happen,” Mr Beveridge said.

“There are a lot of businesses and families reliant on agriculture in and around centres like Charters Towers, for example, and this gives them the prospect of a brighter future in the region, and also will attract new residents. It’s great news.”

“Hells Gates Dam is vital for the region,” Mr Thompson said.

“It will create jobs and be an economic driver, not just in the agricultural sector but flowing on through the broader regional economy.

“For instance, I expect this will see large volumes of agricultural produce flowing through our port to Asian markets, and we all know that when our port is doing well, our region is doing well.”

Media contacts:

Minister Canavan's office 02 6277 7180

Minister McCormack's office 02 6277 7520

Senator Mcdonald's office 02 6277 3722

Mr Christensen's office 02 6277 4538