Queensland's largest water infrastructure project is starting to rise out of the Fitzroy River, with the first concrete pours for the foundations of the Rookwood Weir starting overnight.
It marks a major construction milestone for the $367.2 million project, which will unlock thousands of megalitres of water.
The aim is to increase water security, expand irrigated agricultural production and drive new employment and economic opportunities across Central Queensland.
Sunwater CEO Glenn Stockton said the pours took place at night for temperature control in mass concrete.
"The concrete pours are undertaken in a continuous operation over an 11-hour night shift for about 12 months and we will see the structure take shape over that time," he said.
"A range of other works for the project were also significantly advanced, including having moved 800,000 m3 of earthworks, while a coffer dam, which will help divert river flows, and a temporary river crossing are close to completion.
"All of these activities will help enable works to continue when the river height rises with the approaching wet season."
The concrete is now being produced at the onsite batch plant and is being used for the weir's spillway-monoliths and left abutment.
The project team is working to keep to the construction timeline following a two-week shutdown last month after a contractor that visited the site tested positive for COVID-19.
Deputy Prime Minister and Infrastructure Minister Barnaby Joyce said the government was determined to deliver for the people of CQ and Rookwood Weir was proof of that commitment.
"Rookwood Weir is going to transform this entire region, driving the expansion of irrigated agricultural production and opening up new business opportunities which will boost the local economy," Mr Joyce said.
"The best thing we can do for this country is ensure a secure future for water, our farmers and the regional communities that continue to drive our economic recovery.
"That is why we are investing $3.5 billion through the National Water Grid Fund - to improve water security while promoting local economic activity and job creation along the way."
Queensland Water Minister Glenn Butcher said the project was already delivering benefits across the region.
"It is great to see significant progress on this landmark project that will boost employment opportunities and economic growth across Central Queensland," Mr Butcher said.
"We currently have 196 workers onsite to deliver the weir, 128 of which are Central Queenslanders, with 14 apprentices and trainees.
"Additionally, 95 per cent of project costs will be spent in Queensland."
Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry said the Rookwood Weir project would enable the region to grow and prosper into the future.
"The approximately 86,000 megalitres of water Rookwood Weir will make available will underpin agricultural growth and deliver secure, reliable and affordable water across Central Queensland, setting up local industry to succeed," Ms Landry said.
Rookwood Weir is jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments, delivered in partnership with Sunwater.
The first water from Rookwood Weir will be available in 2023, following the full commissioning of the infrastructure.
The news follows the state government's launch of a $1.2m program to assist CQ farmers bid for water from the new weir.
The water minister said the Landholder Support Program was open to Lower Fitzroy landholders interested in participating in the second tender for water - to be held in 2022.
Mr Butcher said the program would assist irrigators in understanding and capitalising on the opportunities made available by securing water from the infrastructure.
"Landholders will be able to seek specialised advice on a range of issues, from transitioning to higher value crops to how to put their best foot forward in the second stage of the tender process," Mr Butcher said.
"The majority of water from the weir will go towards Central Queensland irrigation, so we want to make sure local farmers have everything they need to make informed decisions."
A minimum of 7500 megalitres will be released in the second stage of the tender, with bidders able to apply for lots of up to 500ML. This follows the sale of 30,000ML in December 2020.
The services available will include farm and land use planning, agronomy assessment, irrigation design, commercial feasibility assessments and legal advice.
Rockhampton Mayor Tony Williams said the program had been developed from information gathered in an expressions of interest process in 2020.
"The scheme will be tailored specifically to farmers' landholdings and will assist them in understanding and gathering the relevant information to participate in the second tender," he said.
Sunwater will fund the program in the form of a grants application process to enable eligible landholders to access to the services.
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