Farmers angry as secret redesign shrinks $352m dam

FARMERS fear the Rookwood Weir will be unviable and their water allocations will be slashed after details of a secret redesign of the project were revealed.

Shockingly, the State Government has dramatically shrunk the size of the major water project off the back of an informal conversation with Scott Morrison in July, despite providing no details of the cost blowout to him or making any further inquiries.

The Palaszczuk Government only sent a letter to Canberra on Wednesday night explaining the details - the same night expressions of interest went out for the reduced project's construction.

State Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said concrete price, structural issues and fish stock complexities meant the dam would cost $210 million more than the $352 million budget - but has made no request for extra funding.

The extra money is similar to the amount of money offered as the public servant cash bonus.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke about the weir on July 12 this year.

There are disputed accounts of what was said.

The Prime Minister's office say the Premier advised them that there would be revised costings completed by the end of the month, while the State Government say Mr Morrison said there would be no further money provided.

Following the meeting, the Palaszczuk Government acted to reduce the weir to fit within the $352 million budget, without further consultation with its co-funder the Federal Government.

LNP Senator Matt Canavan accused the Palaszczuk Government of a "gross lack of transparency" and demanded an independent audit of the $210 million figure.

But Dr Lynham says the State has already spent $66 million on the weir, with preliminary works to start next month, and accused the Federal Government of scaremongering.

"The increased costings and need for redesign have been well-canvassed within governments.

"We are focused on maximising the yield for water security and jobs," he said.

Farmers were caught by surprise from the apparent redesign, with protests held in Rockhampton yesterday.

Rookwood Weir Rally in Rockhampton on Thursday. Picture: Jann Houley
Rookwood Weir Rally in Rockhampton on Thursday. Picture: Jann Houley

AgForce boss Mike Guerin accused the State Government of deliberately trying to sink the plans.

"You can only assume after 20 years of obfuscation they've finally decided to sink it instead of kicking the can down the road," he said.

"I'm not saying it, but it's hard for people not to come to the conclusion that this government is attacking all communities outside Brisbane," he said.

There were fears that the weir's capacity would be cut from 76,000ML/year to 54,000ML. But Dr Lynham said current estimates were it would be 66-72,000ML with farmers to get up to 38,000ML.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said the reduction was a "absolute disgrace".

"They don't know what they're doing. They're just buggerising around," she said.