Residents near a planned dam in northern NSW say they’d be surprised if it ever supported drought impacted communities in Queensland.
Residents near a planned dam in northern NSW say they’d be surprised if it ever supported drought impacted communities in Queensland.

Resident ‘doubtful’ planned dam would support Queensland

RESIDENTS near the proposed Mole River Dam are dubious about Federal and NSW Government plans to build and share water into drought riddled areas of Queensland.

The two government's have struck an agreement to equally split the $1 billion bill for the new and expanded dams in NSW.

Mole River Dam, a project which has been discussed for decades, has been provided an initial $24 million for a business case into the prospective 100,000 megalitre dam.

"Our response to the ongoing drought impacting rural and regional communities is comprehensive and committed," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

The long-touted dam in NSW, more than 40 kilometres west of Tenterfield, will help communities and irrigators in that state plus enable water to be piped into the Granite Belt to ensure it no longer runs dry.

Communities and irrigators will have to pay for the water but it offers them a lifeline and certainty.

Mole River residents, Sarah and David Caldwell, are not sold and say the river the government plan to dam, is bone dry.

"There's hardly any water left in it at all," Mrs Caldwell said.

The couple operate Mole Station Native Nursery, situated right on the river.

The Caldwell family have farmed the land in the area since 1923 and Mr Caldwell said he's been around for at least three to four feasibility studies on a dam in the area.

"Here we go again. Don't hold your breath," Mr Caldwell said.

"I'm not against water security and having water available but this river hasn't really run for three years now.

"This must be the third or the fourth investigation. It doesn't hurt to remind people these investigations have been done before."

 

 

 

The Mole River is bone dry at the moment. This photo of it from Gavin Moore was taken just a few weeks ago.
The Mole River is bone dry at the moment. This photo of it from Gavin Moore was taken just a few weeks ago.

 

 

 

The closest it previously came to being built, he said, is nearly 30 years ago when cotton farmers planned to fund it through private money.

It's been a tough year for the pair. They've destocked nearly all of their cattle and had to half the size of their nursery.

Right now, there's two potential sites for a dam wall. One in particular, would impact them severely.

"The most recently mooted one is just above our property but it wouldn't flood much," Mrs Caldwell said.

"The dam site below us though, would flood our property.

"I thought they wanted to build it because they wish to provide water in dry times for the Murray Darling River, water for cropping down stream and water security for Tenterfield.

"I don't think its going to do this and then provide for Stanthorpe and Warwick as well," she said.

After being approached by irrigators in the Border Rivers catchment area, NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall was the one who took the Mole River Dam case up the chain.

"On hearing the merits of the irrigator's storage proposal, I was delighted to lead a delegation to meet with Water Minister Barnaby Joyce to explain the idea," Mr Marshall said.

"With increasing pressure on water security, governments need to think boldly about how we ensure the longevity and productivity of some of our nation's most important primary industries."

But despite all the chatter around the dam, Mr Caldwell is not convinced it will one day support people on the Granite Belt.

"I think that it's all pipedreams myself. Politicians say all sorts of things that are nonsensical.

"I can't imagine it ever going up to Stanthorpe - the water from here."

According to WaterNSW, it'd be at least 2024 before construction on the dam begins.

Stanthorpe Border Post


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