ABC Interview: 13 July 2020

Talking to Belinda Sanders, Morning Presenter for ABC Southern Queensland, Minister Anthony Lynham explains why the Emu Swamp dam is essential for water security, job creation and the growth of agriculture.

Minister Lynham also addressed the key environmental requirements for the project, and why the Palaszczuk Government has contributed $6 million to the project.

Minister Anthony Lynham

Good morning, Belinda. Good morning listeners.

Belinda Sanders 0:02

Now Emu Swamp dam has been under consideration for a long time. Why is it taking this amount of time to get to this stage?

Minister Anthony Lynham  0:15 

It’s been under consideration, believe it or not, it surprised me as well Belinda, (since) 2007, since the initial steps on Emu Swamp, and so it’s great that this is drawing to a conclusion. And it’s fantastic, the Palaszczuk Government’s got behind Emu Swamp because we’re the only government that’s got behind this dam at the present time, because we’ve advanced $6 million to the project. What that does, it allows a national engineering consultancy, that’s Premise, to oversee the final planning stages for Emu Swamp. And that’ll enable the government to make its final decision on how the dam will look, and it will also bring forward tenders, and prepare tenders, for the construction of the day. And don’t forget the associated pipeline that goes with this dam.

Belinda Sanders 1:00 

There has been some debate over whether or not Emu Swamp Dam is viable in the long term. In fact, the past not the current one, but the past Southern Downs Council suggested doubt in terms of whether or not the business case stacks up. What’s your position on that?

Minister Anthony Lynham 1:19

I remember those arguments quite well. That was some time ago early in the tenure of the previous council. And we work with council through that, and we’ve come to the conclusion that this government does support Emu Swamp Dam. It is a big dam too, like it’s 12,000 mega litres and if you put that into context, it’s six times the size of Storm King Dam. The one thing that’s good about it is the jobs it will support in the region, that really makes it attractive to a Palaszczuk Government. So that’s 250 construction jobs, but 700 full-time jobs in agriculture and supporting jobs in the region after the dam has been constructed, now that is very, very important to us.

Belinda Sanders 2:06

Any concerns about the environmental impact of a dam?

Minister Anthony Lynham 2:11 

Well, it does have to have its environmental approvals all in place before it can go. And that is always part of a process. You know, dams are not inert structures. They do need all their environmental approvals in place. But this dam (as far) as we’re concerned, it stacks up. So far we’ve released $6 million of State Government money towards this dam. And, as I said before, we are the only government behind this dam at the present time. We hope others will follow. The total cost is $84 million, so we hope it’ll follow because, you know, 700 jobs in that region is valuable, and further water security in the Southern Downs Region, especially around Stanthorpe, that’s invaluable

Belinda Sanders 2:56

Is the model of this dam unique, in comparison to proposals and existing dams throughout the State?

Minister Anthony Lynham 3:05 

Yes, it is, well the Granite Belt Irrigation, as you know, is a private proponent, a lot of farmers and businesses getting behind it. And we’re supporting that. And as your listeners would know that it’s usually governments and government entities, such as SunWater or SEQ Water, that build, design and construct dams. But this is a private proponent and they’ve been keen, they have been keen for a long time. But governments do have oversight, we make sure that all the approvals are in place, as we said before, especially the environmental approvals, but also that the dam is viable. You know, the government is spending money on this dam, and we have to make sure that taxpayers get bang for their buck, which we’re doing.

Belinda Sanders 3:50

Do you think that this model could be, or are you considering that it’s another place, where it could be used?

Minister Anthony Lynham 3:59 

Well, we’re always open, always open to listen to any proponents with any infrastructure proposals here in the State. Dams are difficult. It is unusual to have private proponent with dams. Dams take a long time for return on capital. Most dams in Australia constructed on the National Water Infrastructure rules that were introduced in 2004 by John Howard. Basically for your listeners, that means that a dam or any water infrastructure has to stack up environmentally, and has to stack up economically, and we abide by those rules to make sure that any water infrastructure that we do is value for money for farmers, irrigators and also tax payers.

Belinda Sanders 4:48

Do you have any idea when construction could start?

Minister Anthony Lynham 4:53

Well, we’re hoping that a decision for construction to start will be at the end of this year or early next year. And, we’re hoping that construction can start in 2021 with hopefully finish in 2022, 2023. We all know how important, as I said before, water infrastructure and water is at this present time. But Belinda, I’ve never been more watching the weather radar with this low coming through at the present time, I really hope that we get a good dumping for Stanthorpe and Warwick, and we get Leslie Dam way over the 18% mark it has got now and we do get Storm King full.

Belinda Sanders 5:37

$800,000 a month to truck water into Stanthorpe, surely that can’t continue never endingly – that’s a lot of money per month.

Minister Anthony Lynham 5:48 

Water is important. A community such as Stanthorpe with over 5000 people needs water security and I’m happy to be part of a Palaszczuk Government that’s providing that water security into Stanthorpe. And, we will do it again if necessary. But, rain would be nice, Belinda, rain would be nice.

Belinda Sanders 6:06

So you’re just going to have to come up with $800,000 a month till whenever?

Minister Anthony Lynham 6:11

We’ll keep doing it. We’ll keep doing it because Stanthorpe is an important community in Queensland. And what it takes, is what takes.

Belinda Sanders 6:21

Dr Anthony Lanham, thank you very much.

Minister Anthony Lynham 6:24

Thank you, Belinda.