Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash, LNP candidate for Maranoa David Littleproud and Councillor Vic Pennisi at the Emu Swamp Dam site.
Minister for Regional Development Fiona Nash, LNP candidate for Maranoa David Littleproud and Councillor Vic Pennisi at the Emu Swamp Dam site. Megan Sheehan

Politicians 'pass the buck' as region cries for water plan

POLITICIANS at all levels of government have been accused of passing the buck on water security as residents and businesses owners call for a concrete solution to problems that "never should have been allowed to happen”.

With a federal election looming, Warwick nursery owner Ian Macdonald said the Southern Downs was dealing with the devastating consequences of decades of political inertia.

Mr Macdonald believes a new dam would have been built 20 years ago if electoral seats in the Southern Downs and Maranoa were not some of the most secure in the country.

The National Party has retained control of Maranoa continuously since 1943 (when it was called the Country Party) and won the 2016 election on 67.54 per cent.

"Politicians in our region are slower to act. No one give two hoots about us because we are such a safe seat,” Mr Macdonald said.

His comment comes after the region last week moved to extreme level water restrictions, with residents now forced to limit their use to 120 litres a day.

Soon, that target could drop to 80 litres a day under emergency restrictions foreshadowed by Southern Downs Regional Council.

Deputy Mayor Jo McNally said the council was working with state and federal governments to get funding for long and short-term solutions.

A PUDDLE: Warwick's major water source, Leslie Dam at about 7 per cent capacity looks like a dried up puddle from the air.
A PUDDLE: Warwick's major water source, Leslie Dam at about 7 per cent capacity looks like a dried up puddle from the air. Brice Morrish

But a concrete contingency plan or commitment to securing new water sources is yet to be seen by the public.

"We will be meeting with the relevant ministers and Premier to ensure they are fully aware of the extent of our issue,” Cr McNally said.

Despite a weekend of wet weather, Mr Macdonald urged the community to put pressure on politicians now more than ever.

"The rain is not a reason to go quiet about the drought. We need to stay unified as a community,” he said.

"Water security to this town is imperative because we can't move unless we have safe secure water.”

Junabee dairy farmer Brent Hoffman accused politicians of "passing the buck” on finding a solution to water security.

Warwick Daily News asked Federal Agriculture Minister and Member for Maranoa David Littleproud what his long-term plan was for helping agricultural industry and what emergency action he planned to take.

"The $5 billion Future Drought Fund bill will go before the Senate next month which, if passed, will pay yearly dividends of $100 million a year to build better preparedness and recover programs for drought,” he said.

But Mr Hoffman said it was "too little too late”.

Ian Macdonald, Brent Macdonald from Southern Downs Garden Centre with SDRC gardener Bob Bryson.
Ian Macdonald, Brent Macdonald from Southern Downs Garden Centre with SDRC gardener Bob Bryson. Marian Faa

"You can't leave it until it is dire straits and then start worrying about where you are going to get your water,” he said.

"I think nothing gets done in our region because it is such a safe a seat and they just take it for granted, there is nothing surer.”

While he and Mr Macdonald called for new infrastructure, Granite Belt vegetable grower Ray Palmer said another dam would not solve the problem.

"I think as farmers we need to live within our means,” he said.

"People who have stayed within their means as far as available water goes are doing just fine.

"It is the people who have over-extended who are in trouble.

"I think if extra water is made available people will just grow more and next time we have a drought we will be in exactly the same situation.”

Cr McNally said building dams were not the only solution for increasing water allocations in the Southern Downs.

"Water harvesting, water recycling and the use of bores are all possible solutions,” she said.



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