As the water debate continues to be massaged into a virtual water crisis the conditions are created where dreamers take wing on the faintest whisper of factual breeze. Cynical politicians don't mind this at all because it makes their knee-jerk responses, in contrast, seem like carefully considered options. And never mind the distance from the Burdekin, the latest proposal debated by Cairns City Council has been to duplicate the PNG gas pipeline on its right-of-ways all the way to Brisbane, about 1,500kms as the cliché flies.
To put this in perspective, in the United States, California has a very wet north that delivers water to a major metropolis in the south, but the maximum distance involved is only 900kms, of which 750kms is within one long central valley catchment. And almost half of that is downstream flow along the Sacramento River.
Furthermore, the supply to the south is only made economically feasible by the use of a series of shorter water “shuffles”. This is where the abundant northern water replaces the central water which, in turn is shifted further south. The ultimate delivery of four million megalitres of urban water to the Los Angeles and San Diego south coast region is only feasible when it is "piggy backed" on much larger movements of irrigation water to the southern San Joaquin River valley. It would be prohibitively expensive without this synergy with irrigation water.
And underlying all this irrigation water movement is the fact that each shift of water volume achieves a warmer climate and longer growing season. And this is the direct opposite of the case in Queensland where southerly movement of water achieves shorter growing seasons. What's more, the California aqueduct that makes the final lift over the catchment boundary to Los Angeles is only about 350kms.
Here, even a 900kms transit from the Burdekin would involve three such costly lifts over the Burdekin, Fitzroy and Burnett catchment boundaries into the upper Brisbane Valley. A shift from further north would require a lift from the Herbert River, a flow along the Burdekin, a lift over the Burdekin Falls and a lift over the Burdekin Falls dam wall as well.
All in all, there are very sound reasons why a product that sells for $0.94 a tonne cannot be economically transported over the sort of distances natural gas, which sells for $500 a tonne, can.
But what is more curious is that even the good burgers of Cairns City appear to have accepted that the South East corner has some divine right for city dwellers to access anyone else's water whenever they think they need it. Surely, if there is going to be a shortage of water in South East Queensland then one might have thought that those seeking to further the interests of the Far North might have been the first to tell the next half million new arrivals that there is plenty of water in the north.
But Cairns is a Labor stronghold. And while they, and other Labor representatives outside the South East, may highlight the physical attributes of the region for the tourist trade, their minds remain those little outposts of the far north that are, forever, Brisbane.
But surely, a premier who governs for all Queenslanders would give the new arrivals the choice. If they want all the water they reasonably need they can buy a tank like everyone on the land does already, or they can keep going north until water is no longer an issue. Yet, Beattie is spending billions to ensure that most of the population growth, and the resulting economic benefits, remain in the SE corner.
And this begs the question: if it is OK to borrow and spend $2.2 billion on water infrastructure for the exclusive use of the two thirds of the state’s population in the SE corner, then where is the other $1.1 billion that is the rightful entitlement of the remaining one third of Queenslanders in the real Queensland?
Or more appropriately since water is less of an issue, would regional Queenslanders rather take their extra $1.1 billion in road funding and health services instead? The answer is - none of the above. They will get nothing but a "fair share" of the interest bill on Brisbane's $2.2 billion.
And make no mistake, part of the reason Beattie chose the Mary River as the site for a new dam is that it is just outside the Moreton (SEQ) Statistical District and the capital outlay will then appear in the budget statistics as expenditure on the bush, for the bush. But the bush will wear the adverse impacts and get no economic benefit while the city gets all the benefit and none of the impacts. And Emperor Beattie will continue to parade in his increasingly shoddy, "governing for all Queensland" clothes.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
20 posts so far.