EXCITEMENT is growing within the Stanthorpe business community as the Granite Belt Irrigation Project (GBIP) builds momentum. Mick and Judy Spiller, owners of automotive and agricultural supplies company, M&D Auto Parts, have been proponents of the project since its announcement.

Now in its 36th year as a family-owned and operated company, the M&D Auto Parts customer base is largely made up of local farmers who operate within a 100km radius of town, and Mick is deeply connected to the region’s agriculture sector.

Having seen local farmers battle with low rainfall for years, he has experienced first-hand the negative impact uncertain weather and water supply can have on local business.

“We have been through some very difficult and tough times over the years with drought and hail. We felt the hurt as much as growers,” Mick said.

Many of those challenges were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but Mick says locals continually displayed their resilience and community spirit.

“The biggest asset this community has is volunteers. We have so many clubs and groups, all run by volunteers.”

Mick said the build of the Emu Swamp Dam is a timely reward to community members that will solve many of the difficulties they have faced in the past, and will lead to numerous economic growth opportunities.

“It is going to create jobs and water security. The industrial estate will expand, and more businesses will setup.”

And, with that opportunity, Mick believes Stanthorpe will be well-placed to scale-up its tourism industry too, which is already on the comeback with plenty of recent interest from Australian travellers who can no longer venture overseas.

“All our accommodations have been fully booked out for months now.”

“The dam is going to be an added attraction for us too – you will see it driving along the New England highway.

“There is no doubt it will be a drawcard for tourism, agriculture and industry.”