The $352.2 million Rookwood Weir project reached a significant milestone today with the successful completion of the first stage of the water sales process.
Once completed, Rookwood Weir will be the largest weir operated by Sunwater in regional Queensland and following Thursday's successful water sale, the central Queensland agricultural industry stands to benefit after two bidders secured 30,000 megalitres of water.
A minimum of 7500 megalitres will be released in the second stage, with irrigators able to apply for lots of up to 500 megalitres in 2022.
The weir is being constructed on the Fitzroy River, 66 kilometres south west of Rockhampton to improve water security and expand agricultural growth and supply industrial and urban water needs.
Water Minister Glenn Butcher said this was a key milestone for a critical infrastructure project that will enhance water security and provide economic opportunities across the region.
"We know there is an appetite for Rookwood Weir and this water will drive economic recovery and jobs in the Fitzroy region," Mr Butcher said.
"The water will allow the successful tenderers, Rural Funds Management and Argyle Capital Partners, to pursue expansion plans along the Fitzroy River - and that means local jobs and flow-on impacts in the supply chain for local businesses.
"Rookwood Weir is delivering jobs now, more jobs as construction progresses and then further opportunity for economic growth and investment in the region, especially agricultural growth."
The completion of stage one of the tender process comes on the same day Sunwater and its construction partners received approval to enter stage two of the Rookwood Weir project.
The successful bidders had submitted business plans highlighting how their use of the water would support employment and business opportunities in central Queensland.
Rural Funds Management chief operating officer Tim Sheridan said the company intends to establish 5000 hectares of macadamia orchards, with the largest plantings along the Fitzroy River west of Rockhampton.
"The availability of reliable water is critical to our development plans, which will require a significant local workforce. We will also need access to goods and services from local suppliers in the region," he said.
Argyle Capital Partners managing director Kim Morison said the water would allow the business to expand its existing irrigated agriculture operations in the Fitzroy Basin.
"This water enables us to build additional areas of high value permanent crops with our local farming partnerships," he said.
"The development will create additional farm employment and opportunities across a range of industries including irrigation, transport, processing and export packing businesses."
Sunwater chief executive officer Glenn Stockton said additional water was available for local irrigators as part the second stage of the tender process.
"There has been considerable interest in this tranche, which is aimed at smaller operations that need water to expand or diversify their operations," Mr Stockton said.
"The delivery of Rookwood Weir will give central Queensland farmers - both large and small - new opportunities to grow and create jobs for Queenslanders."
Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry called upon the Queensland Government to ensure water prices are affordable for producers.
"They need to ensure water remains affordable for the farmers who wish to purchase water." Ms Landry said.
Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd said the Queensland Government needs to do the right thing by Central Queensland farmers.
"While I think most Central Queenslanders would welcome the progress of Rookwood Weir so far, the price and availibility of water from the weir still causes great uncertainty amongst farmers, graziers and primary producers," Mr O'Dowd said.
Construction is still be completed on the new Riverslea Bridge, with two other road projects associated with the weir - the $2.2 million Capricorn Highway intersection upgrade at Gogango and the $7.5 million upgrade at Thirsty Creek Road - completed in July.
The project will provide for more than 200 jobs during construction - with at least 140 of these to be sourced from central Queensland. Construction is scheduled to start by April 2021, and finish in 2023.