Richmond water scheme ticks all the right boxes, says Senator Macdonald

LNP Senator Ian Macdonald has renewed his strong support for the O’Connell Creek diversion project that has the potential to revitalise the Richmond Shire.

Senator Macdonald made the comment after a tour of the Shire on Tuesday with fellow members of the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia.

The committee, made up of Liberal, Labor and Greens MPs, is examining the potential for development of Northern Australia’s mineral, energy, agricultural, tourism, defence and other industries.

Senator Macdonald, who has long had a keen interest in economically sustainable water storage projects in the North, said the O’Connell Creek project appeared to tick all the right boxes.

“The scheme is appealing because it operates on a water-in, water-out basis with the storage facility feeding water back into the Flinders River during the annual wet seasons,” he said.

“The feasibility studies all show that the black soil plains country in the region can support large-scale cropping – all it needs is water.”

Senator Macdonald, who was a member of the Water Task Force that inspected the O’Connell Creek project two years ago, said the scheme was just one of several exciting water schemes that the committee was looking at during its current tour of the north and north-west Queensland.

He said the success of Corbett Tritton’s irrigation project at Silver Hills Station was proof that water was the key to unlocking the long-recognised cropping potential of areas like Richmond.

“Corbett Tritton’s pioneering work in bringing the black soil plans of Silver Hills alive by sustainable water strategies deserve recognition and praise,” he said.

“It is a matrix for what could be easily be replicated throughout the areas of the North with arable soils with proper harnessing of the abundant water that now flows out into the sea.”

Richmond Shire Mayor John Wharton, who hosted the delegation, said the O’Connell Creek diversion scheme was based on six months of cropping a year to allow the self-cracking clay soils to crack and breathe.

The committee flew over the Gilbert River agricultural project scheme near Georgetown (SUBS: Tuesday, July 1) before attending a briefing from David Hassam, Director of Integrated Food and Energy Development (IFED) in Georgetown.

The committee also toured Kutchera Station and Forest Home Station before heading to Normanton and Weipa for further briefings and inspections.

Senator Macdonald said he was heartened to see the Abbott Government treating the potential of the North seriously after years of “lip service” from the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments.

Senator Macdonald said the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia would also provide recommendations relating to trade, investment links with the Asia-Pacific region, taxation and economic incentives and impediments to realizing the growth of the region above the Tropic of Capricorn.

The committee will present its recommendations to Parliament that will feed into a white paper outlining a government action strategy.

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