POTENTIAL future deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce is backing the proposal for a new dam for the Granite Belt at Emu Swamp after attending a Southern Downs Regional Council special meeting this week.
The proposed urban and irrigation dam north of Stanthorpe is estimated to cost around $80 million, with at least 40% of the cost to be borne by ratepayers.
"The dam report is ready to go and Emu Swamp Dam is in a very favourable position," Senator Joyce said this week, after visiting the site earlier this year as part of an LNP Opposition task force.
Councillor Vic Pennisi, who has advocated for the massive project for more than two decades, said ratepayers would not be stuck with the whole cost.
"There is an assumption out there that ratepayers will have to pay for it," he said.
"The urban component rests with the ratepayers but not the growers' irrigation component."
Cr Pennisi said he felt the dam was a good investment for the future.
"As long as there is breath in my body I will continue to advocate for this project," he declared.
"People fought to give us the freedom we enjoy in this country and some of us have the obligation to ensure future generations are able to enjoy the same freedoms."
The dam is in the supplementary stage of the Environmental Impact Statement process and Cr Pennisi said he had no idea how much longer that process could take.
"It could take up to another two years to go through," Cr Pennisi said.
"A lot depends on the drivers behind the application and what the government of the day wants to happen."
Cr Pennisi, who has been involved in the water sector for more than 20 years, said it was the process anyone had to go through when getting permission to build a dam.
"In my personal opinion Stanthorpe needs more water and Emu Swamp is the best location," he said.
"There is an agricultural component and an urban water component."
Senator Joyce's support comes despite the Daily News revealing last year that council consultants had advised Emu Swamp would not get state or federal environmental clearance due to a rare turtle and other species.
Cr Jamie Mackenzie said during this week's meeting councillors were able to highlight other much-needed jobs to Senator Joyce - who may run for our federal seat of Maranoa - including the Woodenbong road.
"I believe it's holding back the whole region," he said.
"We need a better connection for heavy freight vehicles between Lismore and Toowoomba and to enhance tourism links between Stanthorpe and Byron Bay."
The road was dubbed the worst in Australia by Will Hagen on ABC radio last week.