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Rookwood Weir
Rookwood Weir (north of Gogango) has been a political plaything for over 13 years (Peter Beattie promised piggeries and 300,000 cattle in floodplain feedlots as far back as 2005 (that proposal was aptly called FIIS). Building Queensland in partnership with SunWater and Gladstone Area Water Board (Awoonga Dam water security was the prime driver for Rookwood) has released a business case summary http://buildingqueensland.qld.gov.au/proposal-summaries/  which states “further actions required”. Specifically, that firm commitments from potential irrigators and other users would be needed before public money is thrown at the weir (potentially over $300 million+, shared equally by Australian and Queensland taxpayers). The Building Queensland summary report also notes that the white elephant Paradise Dam on the Burnett River requires over $400 million in repairs following ex Tropical Cyclone Oswald just to make it safe. If Gladstone needs more water why can’t this be supplied from a pipeline from Paradise Dam? Given the Fitzroy’s soil studies which show less than 5 % are suitable for irrigation plus the lack of takers for the existing 20,000ML water supply it would be a ‘very courageous (Yes) Minister’ who commits us to another failed water scheme with unacceptable risks to Rockhampton’s water quality, decline in fish productivity and further risk to threatened species. 

CCC is writing to State and Federal Ministers to re-state the environmental and economic risks of impounding around 100 kilometres of the Fitzroy’s natural sand and gravel filtration zones and riparian corridor. If you’d like to add your voice, here are the contact detail for some key Qld Ministers.

Hon Dr Anthony Lynham
Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy
Phone: (07) 3719 7360
Email: nrm@ministerial.qld.gov.au

Hon Leeanne Enoch
Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts
Phone: (07) 3719 7140
Email: environment@ministerial.qld.gov.au

Hon Mark Furner
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries:
Phone: (07) 3719 7420
Email: agriculture@ministerial.qld.gov.au

Summary of Key CCC Concerns:

1.    The weirs and the flooding of hundreds of kilometres of river channel and side gullies will magnify the threat from toxic blue-green algal blooms (Cyanobacteria).
2.    The flooding of about 90 km of river channel from Rookwood Weir alone will significantly reduce habitat for the endemic, vulnerable Fitzroy River Turtle (Rheodytes leukops) This turtle requires well oxygenated natural streamflows with shallow pools, riffle zones plus sand and gravel beds for breeding success and species survival.
3.    The Queensland Government’s own soil report suggests that more than 95% of the soils have moderate limitations, are marginal or unsuitable for irrigated agriculture, though most are “C2”, suitable for native pasture for sustainable grazing and biodiversity conservation. (See Attachments A, B and C below.)
4.    Water quality experts, recreational and professional fishers and ecologists, (in particular micro-biologists) have expressed grave concerns about ‘unacceptable risks’ to river health, urban water quality, regional biodiversity and the productivity of the river, estuary and southern Great Barrier Reef.
5.    Scientists involved in treating water for urban consumption are extremely concerned about the extreme measures they are having to take to treat river water in its current conditions including hot weather, long dry spells with intermittent weedy, muddy flushing from localised catchment storms. They are very anxious about the proposed weirs’ effect of reduced flushing, algal blooms, ‘black’ water’ (low dissolved oxygen) from stagnation and rotting aquatic weeds.  Also there is concern about the greatly increased risk of run-off of soil, subsoil salt discharge, pesticides and fertiliser (the latter two virtually untreatable for human use) from intensive irrigation.
6.    Alternatively, we should consider Lower Fitzroy for ‘high value horticulture with extreme water use efficiency, off-stream flood harvested water storage, and reuse which doesn’t require habitat and water quality reducing destructive river impoundments. e.g. refer to Sundrop Farms SA http://www.sundropfarms.com/
7.    The proposal is based on outdated Gladstone industrial growth water demand figures.
8.    Current claims of 2000 jobs and $1 Billion of increased agricultural production seem unbelievably inflated.
9.    Fitzroy Industry Infrastructure Study (FIIS) / Fitzroy Agricultural Precinct (FAP) feasibility studies (2006-2010) did not produce a business case required to satisfy potential investors of the economic viability of the suggested 3-9 industrial scale (15,000 head each) beef feedlots, nor the proponents (Rockhampton City Council/Sunwater of the sustainability of the water market.)

Riffle Zones on Fitzroy River

Short history of Fitzroy Basin water projects
2005 – FIIS (Piggeries, Beef feedlots~300,000 head)
2007 – Lack of infrastructure noted
2009 – referred to Federal Environment Dept
2011 – Draft TOR
2012 – Final TOR
2014 – Project lapsed; Revised TOR
2015 – Agricultural White paper
2016 – Revised EIS incomplete
2016 – $2M for more study, business case, revised water demand assessment?

Sample soil suitability map – note fragmented distribution of higher class soils and predominance of ‘marginal’ (brown) and ‘unsuitable’ (pink) soils.

Fitzroy River in natural flow