THE construction of new dams throughout Queensland would be just one measure taken to help drought proof the state if federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has his way.
Mr Joyce released the green paper on agricultural competitiveness in Canberra on Monday, identifying 27 projects nationally as worthy of capital investment or further investigation. Projects included nine potential dams in Queensland.
He said the projects would not "drought proof" Queensland by themselves, but would be part of "myriad" measures to reduce the impact.
"To say that you can somehow produce a product on the land without water is just ridiculous," he said. "It will never completely drought proof it, but imagine how our nation would look if we removed all the dams we currently have?"
Mr Joyce cited Beardmore dam near his former home town of St George as an example of how construction of a dam could transform the economic base of a community.
"In a good year that area of about 5000 people produces well over half-a-billion dollars' worth of produce. If we extrapolated that across the nation, we would be the richest nation on Earth. To say that we can't afford dams is some sort of oxymoron because ultimately it produces a vast amount of wealth."
When questioned about how the federal government would pay for such infrastructure while there was a "budget emergency", Mr Joyce said the funds would come from governments and the private sector.
"In the initial stages, some from government but a lot from private enterprise. I have already spoken to proponents who are very happy to build dams without any government money. In fact, the main assistance that they want is for governments to get out of way so they can build them."
The initial list of nine projects in Queensland has largely been welcomed by local councils and agricultural groups.
Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry said she was "elated" the Connors dam between Sarina and Moranbah, the Fitzroy Corridor's Eden Bann and Rookwood weirs near Rockhampton, and the Urannah dam at Collinsville were on the list. Ms Landry and Rockhampton-based senator Matthew Canavan have toured the Connors and Fitzroy dam sites by air with federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd.
Last week Ms Landry also hosted Prime Minister Tony Abbott in Rockhampton where he said dams were high on the government's agenda.
"There is long way to go, but the signs are encouraging that we are slowly pushing these important projects further up the food chain where they need to be before they can eventually get the green light," Ms Landry said. "People may recall that hearings were held in Rockhampton earlier this year and the green paper now sets out 25 policy themes for public comment, which were built by drawing on the valuable input from farmers and industry and community representatives."
The inclusion of the Nathan dam near Taroom is sure to ignite debate among locals with many holders of land that will be resumed opposing the proposal.
Former Taroom landholder and project officer for the Wildlife Preservation Society's Upper Dawson branch, Adam Clark, said the dam would threaten the unique Boggomoss formations that were also home to some rare plants and animals.
Mr Clark also questioned how effective the site of the Nathan dam would be. "When you look at the yield and size, it's not a good site."
- Click here for the green paper and to make a submission. Submissions close on December 12.