River boys
River boys

Two people, 2100km away, deciding on our future

A TAXPAYER-funded body in charge of developing dams and water infrastructure in north Queensland has just two staff members - both are based 2100km south in Canberra.

The North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority has been operating for eight months, has an empty office space in Townsville, but is currently fully based in the nation's capital.

The Opposition blasted it as "disgraceful", while a north Queensland LNP MP said it was "not good enough".

Its interim CEO Richard McLoughlin was paid $100,000 his first three months on the job, government documents reveals.

Opposition water spokeswoman Terri Butler says it is “disgraceful” the North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority is based in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith
Opposition water spokeswoman Terri Butler says it is “disgraceful” the North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority is based in Canberra. Picture: Kym Smith

While it has just two staff members so far, an Infrastructure department spokeswoman said they were "preparing to recruit" a Townsville-based staff member, while another position would be considered.

They defended the North Queensland agency not being based in the area it is serving, saying they needed to work closely with Canberra-based agencies to deliver projects.

Asked whether a permanent CEO would live and work in Townsville, they said a decision would not be made until early next year.

But the second job, the chief operating officer, will remain in Canberra.

The Ross River in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney
The Ross River in Townsville. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Opposition water spokeswoman Terri Butler said the government had again been caught out being loose with the truth on water infrastructure.

"This is a disgrace. Queenslanders deserve investment and jobs from Canberra, instead they have Scott Morrison's all talk, no action approach," Ms Butler said.

"The Prime Minister has no plan for our country and is taking our state for granted."

Herbert MP Phillip Thompson said it was "not good enough" that there were no staff in north Queensland and had sought commitments there would be at least two based in Townsville by the end of the year.

He said the State Government had been slow to give necessary approvals for Hells Gate Dam, which has been delayed.

"You can't have an authority in north Queensland and have no one in north Queensland," he said.

Herbert MP Phillip Thompson says he has been promised there will be two staff based in Townsville for the North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority by the end of the year. Picture: Evan Morgan
Herbert MP Phillip Thompson says he has been promised there will be two staff based in Townsville for the North Queensland Water Infrastructure Authority by the end of the year. Picture: Evan Morgan

"But I do understand that you can't have people there when there's nothing happening.

"Now that the projects are rolling, I expect people to be in north Queensland, not just sitting in Canberra in the bubble."

A spokeswoman for Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the permanent CEO would split their time between Townsville and Canberra, but said there would be just one north Queensland position filled by year's end.

The chief operating officer will remain Canberra based as "this role requires significant collaboration with Canberra-based public sector staff".

The NQWIA is tasked with co-ordinating the Commonwealth resources to implement the Hughenden Irrigation Scheme and Hells Gates Dam.

It will also assist with the Rookwood Weir, Mareeba-Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme and the Nogoa Mackenzie Water Supply Scheme.



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