Cane farmers say Paradise Dam rebuild essential

CANE farmers have again called on the Palaszczuk government to restore Paradise Dam back to its original 300,000 megalitre capacity rather than permanently reducing the dam’s capacity by 57 per cent.

Farmers say while community safety is paramount, they were concerned for the future of agriculture in the Bundaberg region. It’s a view equally shared by fruit and vegetable growers.

Work began to lower the dam wall height by 5.8m last month, after concerns were raised about the stability of the structure and the safety of downstream communities in a major flood event.

Canegrowers Isis chairman Mark Mammino said it was a travesty to see the dam wall being lowered.

We need the dam fixed. It needs to be remediated to its original capacity in the shortest amount of time possible.– Mark Mammino

“We need the dam fixed,” Mr Mammino said. “It needs to be remediated to its original capacity in the shortest amount of time possible.

“We need water security to continue the growth in agriculture that has been occurring since this irrigation scheme was first established.”

The contractor currently reducing the height of the wall is part of the CIMIC Group, which originally constructed the $240 million dam on the Burnett River.

Mr Mammino said all sides of politics needed to stop playing games and treating farmers likes pawns on a chess board, particularly in an election year.

“We all want a safe dam that protects the lives and livelihoods of the Bundaberg region,” Mr Mammino said.

“We need SunWater and the political leaders to sit down with us and develop a plan for the future.”

LNP Natural Resources spokesman Dale Last described spending $100m to lower the Paradise wall by 5.8m as an absolute disgrace.

“Wide Bay Burnett farmers have been ignored and the economic security of the region has been put at risk by Labor,” Mr Last said.

“Tearing down dams in the middle of a drought shows that the Palaszczuk government doesn’t understand regional Queensland and doesn’t back our farmers.”

Mr Last said the LNP had a plan to fix Paradise Dam, by working with international experts and at a fraction of the cost.

Engineer Ken Pearce said Paradise Dam continued to fail because Queensland’s executive managers had not accepted strategic advice from professional dam engineers.

“While civil engineers typically build infrastructure, dam engineers build and operate large dams, and ensure that dams built by civil engineers are fit for purpose,” Mr Pearce said.

“In functional terms, dam engineers strategically manage the risks inherent in the building and operation of large dams; and teach dam engineering to civil engineers.”

Cutting water and electricity costs on Burdekin cane farm

A BURDEKIN cane grower used technology to significantly reduce his water usage and in turn-electricity costs in a move that’s paying dividends.

Leon Franchina’s efforts to improve the efficiency of irrigation water has seen his water usage reduce by 140 megalitres a year and cut pumping costs by a third.

Mr Franchina installed scheduling tool Gdots on representative blocks to monitor soil moisture across the farm so irrigation timing could be matched to crop water use and soil type.

He also addressed soil trouble spots on the property by laser leveling and adding ash and mill mud to improve sandy areas in the paddock.

This increased soil water holding capacity has helped to combat deep drainage and improve irrigation efficiency.

As a result Mr Franchina is applying small irrigation volumes more frequently rather than large volumes less often.

“I have significantly reduced water use, from up to four megalitres per hectare to less than one megalitre,” Mr Franchina said.

“I’m also irrigating more efficiently saving two to three days out of an 11-day irrigation cycle.

“This is definitely a more scientific approach to delivering what the crop needs in the way of water. I’m only putting on what the plants need a day.

“Receiving real time information from the GDots means we can make informed decisions around irrigation scheduling, which is also improving business efficiency.”

Mr Franchina said the assistance received through The Reef Alliance Program Phase II had made it possible for him to fast track his irrigation improvements by at least five years.

The program has supported Mr Franchina to develop an irrigation improvement plan, as well as tailored extension and agronomic support.

“Through this project I’ve been able to reduce water usage by 140 megalitres per year and cut my pumping costs by a third,” Mr Franchina said.

NQ Dry Tropics sugar cane project officer Michael Hobbs said the project was helping Mr Franchina to achieve real outcomes on the ground and assisting to implement changes to farming practices faster than growers otherwise would have been able.

“Mr Franchina has been able to improve irrigation efficiency and save water without sacrificing yield,” Mr Hobbs said.

“He has been able to improve irrigation application efficiency by incorporating crop growth measurements and water use data into the irrigation schedule, and adjusting irrigation volumes to suit the amount of water used by the crop since the last irrigation.”