Stanthorpe gets Emu Swamp Dam

vic pennisi
Stanthorpe apple grower, Victor Pennisi supports the Emu swamp dam

On the 4th August 2019 the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Anthony Lynham, gave the Brisbane Times a scoop. The minister did not send the media release to the Courier Mail so it didn’t get to run this story about Queensland’s new dam on the Southern Tablelands near Stanthorpe. The story in the Brisbane Times revealed the construction of Emu Swamp Dam to be completed by 2022.

What the Brisbane Times article does not say is that the proposed dam will be the first privately owned major dam* in Australia. The Queensland Labor Government is setting up a corporation limited by guarantee that will own the dam. So public monies, State and Federal, are being directly siphoned into a dam owned by a private business. Furthermore the Emu Swamp Dam corporation will apply to the Tax Office for exemption from Income Tax. We ask the Minister, who will the members of this company be? Who will reap the benefit of this publicly funded infrastructure? The Emu Swamp Dam Ltd will be ‘a company limited by guarantee‘ which means there can be no shareholders only members. The company can be sued but not the members, it can legally lease property, enter into contracts or hold assets in its name. Its members may hold unequal voting rights but apparently they will not in this case.

The Southern Downs Region of Queensland has been ravaged by drought and many thousands of apple trees are currently being ripped out.  Fruit and tomato growers in the region say that they will not be planting in 2020. 

The Emu Swamp Dam will be the first dam to be built in Queensland since the Wyralong Dam (2011) and Paradise Dam (2005) were constructed by state government. Wyralong is owned by statutory authority SEQ Water. The Paradise Dam is owned by a government-owned corporation, Burnett Water and had been promised since the 1950s. This was a pristine area near Biggenden. Sadly both the freshwater mullet and lung fish that abound in the Burnett were prevented from following their usual trek upriver by the dam wall, even though a ladder was constructed. The ladder for the fish to go above the dam wall never worked.

We ask – are dams the answer to climate change (extreme weather events – droughts and floods)? Mind you this privately owned $84M dam at Glen Alpin near Stanthorpe is necessary for horticulture in the granite belt.

More than half of the funding comes from the federal government, one quarter from the irrigators and the rest from the state government.

We ask why doesn’t the state have its own public works department build infrastructure instead of private non-union contractors? No dam should be privately owned. Building infrastructure to fund profit in the private sector, why? Must we be slaves to the Havard Business School thinking that dominates the thinking of Queensland Treasury?

dark emu
There is no Dark Emu in this Dam – apples are not native berries.

And finally where shall the rain come this far inland to fill the dam?

3 Aug 2019

*Emu Swamp Dam is to be constructed by damming Severn River, a perennial river that forms part of the Border Rivers group, and is part of the Macintyre catchment of the Murray-Darling basin, located in the Darling Downs region of Queensland, Australia.


Queensland’s first new dam in a decade to be built in parched Granite Belt

Queensland’s drought-wracked Granite Belt, home to the towns of Stanthorpe and Warwick, will finally have a secure water supply after the state government agreed to co-fund a new dam on the Severn River.

The Queensland government will add $13.6 million to the $70 million already promised by Stanthorpe irrigators ($23 million) and the federal government ($47 million) to build the Emu Swamp Dam.

Stanthorpe and Applethorpe are under extreme water restrictions.
Stanthorpe and Applethorpe are under extreme water restrictions.             Credit:Tony Moore

It is hoped the dam, expected to be completed in 2022, would save lucrative crops and help Stanthorpe and Warwick residents already on extreme water restrictions using less than 100 litres per person per day.

The planned $84 million dam would inundate around 200 hectares of bushland scrub near Glen Aplin, about 10 minutes’ drive south of Stanthorpe, and provide 12,000 megalitres for the drought-stricken Granite Belt’s $283 million per year fresh produce market.

Tony Moore
Brisbane Times
4 Aug 2019

One response to “Stanthorpe gets Emu Swamp Dam

  1. A decision 25 years in the making

    SOUTHERN Downs councillor Vic Pennisi has been waiting a long time for the Emu Swamp Dam.

    “My hair was red when I began to champion it and now it’s a different colour,” he said.

    His role in the project is as chair of the Stanthorpe Community Reference Panel and he estimated he had been involved in looking at alternative water supply options for the Granite Belt for 25 years.

    While welcoming the news that the Queensland Government would kick in the $16 million required for the project to proceed, he advocated a degree of restraint.

    “Most people are doing cartwheels,” he said.

    “But there is no dam yet and there is a fair way to go.

    “This is just another step in the journey.”

    He said news of the state government contribution was ‘fantastic news’ and that he was looking forward to being involved ‘in some way if I can be’.

    “No one was more excited than me to read the headlines,” he said. “But they haven’t turned the first sod, they haven’t cut a ribbon. This just gets it a bit closer.”

    Councillor Pennisi paid tribute to the many people involved in pushing for the dam saying it was ‘a real community effort’.

    He said local politicians, James Lister and David Littleproud had advocated for many years, as had Lawrence Springborg before them.

    He also commended government workers involved for their ‘patience and professionalism’.

    “It’s not about me, it’s about we,” he said. “The late Glen Rogers did a lot on this project, so did Ian Henderson, the chamber president.

    “The growers put up their hand to chip in $24 million”.

    “I’m privileged to be able to advocate on behalf of the poor buggers out there with no water at the moment.”

    by Deirdre Smith
    5th Aug 2019
    Stanthorpe Border Post


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