By Lloyd Taylor, Granite Belt Irrigation Project CEO

There has been an exciting development for the Southern Downs, with new figures released by the Regional Australian Institute demonstrating that migration has increased by 44 per cent to the region. This is the second largest growth of inland migration recorded, with popular coastal destination, Noosa experiencing the largest growth at 49 per cent.

It is delightful to see people are recognising of the abundant and varied lifestyle offered in the Southern Downs. I do, however, echo the sentiments made by other local leaders about the importance of ensuring our region is prepared to cope with the water requirements of a growing population. It is exciting that this Project is in a position to support and assist in sustaining this positive growth.

Over the past month, the GBIP team has had the opportunity to meet with a number of community groups. This engagement has allowed us to provide updates on the Project’s progress, and we hope to hold more of these updates as the Project progresses and we have more information to share.

We recently announced the appointment of experienced independent director Jack Noye as Chair, following Dan Hunt’s acceptance of an extension to his role as interim Chair of SunWater. Dan has played a significant role in bringing the Project to this point, and we thank him for his invaluable contribution. We are pleased to appoint Jack, who brings extensive experience within both the agriculture and water sectors.

Other key updates include the progress of the Irrigation Distribution Network and Associated Works Design and Construct (pumps and pipelines) and Dam Design and Construct tenders, which have both been released. The tenders are due to close on 3 August and 17 September, respectively. Both have received strong interest from the market. Leading Australian advisory firm, McGrathNicol, has been engaged to steer the Project through the design and construction procurement process to ensure it adheres to the strict probity guidelines.

It is with great enthusiasm that I can report GBIP is well-placed to achieve the required water aggregation allocations needed to progress the Project. That being said, we encourage anyone interested in selling water entitlements to contact the Project, as we will continue to acquire allocations for the long-term security of the Project.

Our dedicated land access, acquisition and stakeholder relations team, consisting of Charles Burke, Amanda Harrold and John Farquhar, has been engaging with landholders whose property falls within in the distribution network’s footprint. We have been humbled by the assistance of the landholders who, while they are being compensated for their land’s use, can also see the wide-ranging benefits this Project will bring to the community, and have offered their full cooperation. This engagement has been a wonderful opportunity to meet and discuss with landholders details of the proposed pipeline and the minimal impact it will have to their use of their land.

The Project is currently working with the Australian and Queensland Governments in the development of the Project’s environmental offset strategy, and we continue to meet regularly with the governments which are committed to jointly funding the Emu Swamp Dam project.

The Emu Swamp Dam project is being jointly funded, with $23.4 million from local water customers, the highest proportion of community investment in water infrastructure in Queensland’s history. While the Australian Government, has committed $42 million through the National Water Grid Fund, and $5 million through the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative toward the delivery of the Project, and the Queensland Government has committed a conditional $13.6 million.

Also please remember, community members can receive the most accurate and up-to-date information on progress through the Granite Belt Irrigation Project website or can speak directly with the GBIP team by visiting the Project Office at 3/35 Maryland Street, Stanthorpe.