Farmers discuss fast-tracking class action amid water worry
The Paradise Dam class action has reportedly ramped up amid concerns for low water allocations if the dam doesn't receive significant rainfall soon.
Local growers who are dependent on water from the Bundaberg Irrigation Scheme, held meetings throughout the district last week, to discuss plans for fast tracking the class action, according to a release from Marland Law.
"Local law firm, Marland Law, have been engaged by the growers who have banded together to ensure a large class action can be brought against the State Government and Sunwater in the Queensland Supreme Court within weeks," the release reads.
Sunwater maintains its decisions in relation to Paradise Dam have been about protecting both lives and livelihoods.
"The decision to lower the dam wall has been made to improve the safety of communities living downstream of the dam, while longer term remediation of the dam is designed and implemented," a Sunwater spokesperson said.
"Sunwater won't comment on any potential legal proceedings."
The spokesperson said Sunwater continues to provide water for its customers.
In addition to Paradise Dam, the Bundaberg Water Supply Scheme is supplied by Fred Haigh Dam, Ned Churchward Weir, Bucca Weir, Ben Anderson Barrage and Kolan Barrage.
"There is enough water in Paradise Dam and other storages within the Bundaberg Water Supply Scheme to meet allocations for the 2020-21 water year," the spokesperson said.
However it's the next water year that has farmers concerned.
The forecast storage model for Paradise Dam, which showed without decent inflow the dam could be nearly empty by July.
Macadamia grower Michael McMahon is concerned that without decent inflows in the dam soon the region could be facing "historically low announced allocations".
"This region has experienced very dry periods in the past" said Mr McMahon.
"In July 2002, for example, the announced allocation for Burnett River irrigators was just 5 per cent.
"No farmer can grow any crop with confidence with only 5 per cent of his announced allocation.
"The news that we could be starting on a very low announced allocation in July 2021 is driving local farmers to fast-track the class action against the Government and Sunwater for their mismanagement of the dam."
The Sunwater spokesperson said water allocations are set at the start of the water year and cannot decrease as dam capacity levels reduce.
Should inflows occur allocations can increase to a maximum of 100 per cent.
"Allocations for the next water year will be announced in July 2021," the spokesperson said.
"Sunwater undertakes announced allocation forecasting in the 1-2 months before the start of the next water year.
"Forecasting ahead of this time is challenging as it is subject to many variables and unknowns such as inflows, weather conditions and customer usage.
"Sunwater regularly communicate with customers and the broader community to ensure they remain well informed about available water supply."
Marland Law principal Tom Marland said farmers were eager to see the class action fast tracked since word of the dam's dire situation became public.
"I can understand why the local farming community is so worried about the potential of very low announced allocations in July this year," Mr Marland said.
"It'd be like asking the average household to survive on 5 per cent of their normal groceries budget - it's simply unworkable."
Bundaberg farmers have also engaged class action expert Mr Douglas Campbell QC along with barristers, Matthew Donovan and Justin Byrne, to assist with the development of the case.
A spokesperson for Minister for Water Glenn Butcher said the minister "will not comment on potential legal proceedings".