Dam politics: Will trouble in Paradise hit polls?
AS the state election nears, farmers fighting for Paradise Dam to be rebuilt could make the future of the megastructure a voting matter, a recent community meeting heard.
Works to lower the dam by 5.8m as a safety measure began in May despite lobbying from the region's farmers advocating for water security.
The dam has made headlines for nearly a year, as water was released, a Commission of Inquiry was undertaken and a rally outside the Bundaberg Courthouse protesting the spillway reduction.
Legal proceedings including a judicial review and a class action have also been lodged in the battle for Paradise Dam by Marland Law.
The class action against the government and SunWater was instigated after an alleged breach of duty of care, deceptive and misleading conduct in the management of Paradise Dam.
And now the dam could become an election issue.
Local politicians Stephen Bennett, Tom Smith and David Batt have shared their thoughts on the matter:
Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett
"It all comes down to one question; do you want to vote for a Government that dismantled a vital dam in the middle of drought, when there were clearly other options to repair and rehabilitate it, or not?" he said.
"The Paradise Dam issue has left our community heartbroken.
"The Labor Government started down a road of diabolical consequences in September last year and they're now presiding over the biggest infrastructure fail in the nation's history.
"The State Labor Government continues to mislead and misrepresent the people of Bundaberg and have failed to listen to our pleas to stop tearing down the wall."
Mr Bennett said water was the lifeblood of our region with the Paradise Dam supporting our industry, communities, and environment.
"I have fought tooth and nail for months and will never give up," he said.
"Our community will not forget the complete disrespect and disdain the Palaszczuk Labor Government has shown towards our region.
"I believe the lowering of the wall should never have been an option.
"No other dam in the world has been lowered due to these issues; they were all repaired.
"All reports say more testing is needed.
"International experts in the field have clearly articulating a repair solution.
"It's unthinkable that a government would rip the top off a dam wall knowing this.
"Alas, that is exactly what the State Labor Government has done."
"If the State Labor Government considers what the alas action will cost them and what it would cost to fix the dam wall, there is only be one clear option.
"That's to take the advice of international experts and fix the wall.
"We need to build dams, not rip them up.
"The Labor Government has so far taken the cheap and nasty option of destruction as opposed to providing water security for our region.
"Our community is a force to be reckoned with and we will not give up."
Labor candidate for Bundaberg Tom Smith
"The safety of our Bundaberg community must always come first," Mr Smith said.
"That is - and will always be - my primary concern.
"Part of being a responsible government is having to make those tough decisions for the safety of others.
"We know through the publicly-available independent technical reports that there is a potential risk of major flooding if there is an extreme weather event, and so long as that is there, I will support the decision and advice that keeps our community safe, and alive.
"I understand the importance of making sure there is water security for farmers because we know the important role farmers play in Bundy however in order to manage water security in our region, we need to make sure the spillway isn't compromised or damaged, and that the dam is safe at all times."
Member for Bundaberg David Batt
"The Paradise Dam debacle has been at the forefront of everyone's mind since September 2019 when the Queensland Labor Government announced it would reduce the dam's capacity by 58%," Mr Batt said.
"In my recent Bundy community survey, 83 per cent of local residents told me they are not in favour of the reduction of the Paradise Dam spillway and it was one of the top 5 issues our community is concerned about.
"Here in Bundy we are fortunate to have the rich soil and environmental conditions that enable our hardworking farmers and small businesses to thrive and deliver world class produce.
"Up until Labor's Paradise Dam debacle, we also had water security too."
Mr Batt said the Bundaberg region produced 25 per cent of Australia's fresh produce at various times throughout the year but for that to continue we need water security.
"The safety of residents should always be the number one priority, but we cannot ignore the detrimental impacts a lack of water security will continue to have on our region," he said.
"Millions of dollars in investments are currently on hold because of the uncertain future of water security in our region.
"What has occurred at Paradise Dam under the Queensland Labor Government is totally unacceptable."
Mr Batt said tearing down the wall of Australia's newest dam before appropriate testing was undertaken and without a plan for the future was "unbelievable".
"A future LNP Government will fix Paradise Dam, build new dams across the state and upgrade existing ones through the establishment of the Queensland Dam Company and, we will build the New Bradfield Scheme," he said.
"If Paradise Dam is not fully reinstated, it will cost our local economy $2.4 billion over the next 30 years and 1 in 5 local jobs will be lost or at risk.
"Paradise Dam is the largest infrastructure failure in Australia's history and the LNP is the only party with a plan and commitment to reinstate the lost water capacity and restore the security that's been unfairly taken away from the Bundaberg region."