ONE YEAR ON: State of play since decision to lower spillway
Today marks a year since the decision to lower Paradise Dam and release thousands of megalitres was announced.
Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Dr Anthony Lynham announced the decision to lower the dam by 5.8m as a matter of community safety and works began in May.
Since the announcement there have been protests, numerous community meetings with SunWater, a Commission of Inquiry and a class action.
And the saga continues.
Speaking to the NewsMail previously Dr Lynham said an independent Commission of Inquiry and 13 experts confirmed structural and stability issues with Paradise Dam.
"The works underway now to lower the spillway are for community safety," he said.
"All options remain on the table - including returning the dam to its original height - while SunWater and Building Queensland conduct further testing."
Work is now focused on installing the first passive anchors to secure the new concrete crest.
"Concrete pours for the new crest are planned to start in October," a statement reads.
"We will complete as much of this work as we can before the wet season but it is likely that some work will continue after the wet season.
"Engineering testing is progressing in parallel to inform the long-term remediation design of Paradise Dam."
For North Burnett citrus growers, Hamish and Megan McDonald, the announcement changed their lives.
The McDonalds have a citrus orchard just below the dam wall, directly on the Burnett River.
Mrs McDonald said their kids had watched them grapple with this issue for the last 12 months.
"We had a Government organisation make a decision in the middle of the night and all of a sudden our whole lives falls apart," she said.
"We didn't even know at first if we would be able to keep farming because we can't pick our
fruit or protect our crop without staff and our greatest concern in all of this has been for the safety of our staff and our family.
"We've had several meetings with Sunwater, but there is still so much uncertainty about our
Mr McDonald said they've spent the year in "limbo".
"We don't know if it's safe for our kids or our staff to be on the orchard, we don't know what will happen with water allocations in the future, we don't know if we'll be able to buy more water in the future… there are just so many unknowns," he said.
But, he said they've come to understand the significance of the decision to lower the wall.
"Like many farmers in the district we intended to buy more water when our orchard matured,"
Mr McDonald said.
"We didn't buy the water earlier because we didn't want to pay all the Sunwater fixed charges for water we wouldn't need for 5-10 years.
"Now that the wall has been lowered and the Government has made no commitment to fix it,
we don't know if that water will be available to buy in the future.
"We've built up this farm from scratch … it's our whole future.
"When so many lives have been impacted by this situation with the dam, we just can't believe that no-one is being held accountable."
Agribusiness lawyer, Tom Marland, said the McDonalds were just one example of the devastation the decision to lower wall of Paradise Dam has had on the local community.
"One year ago today the Premier of Queensland, along with her Minister for Natural Resources and the State Government-owned corporation, Sunwater, literally washed this region's future down the river with the release of 100 000 ML of water from Paradise Dam," Mr Marland said.
"We're here at Anzac Pool today, beside the Burnett River, because it is symbolic of the water that was lost from this community 12 months ago.
"The equivalent of 40,000 Anzac Pools were released down this river on this day last year. And we are still in drought.
"Against the advice of their own Inquiry and the advice of international dam expert, Dr Paul
Rizzo, they went ahead and spent $100 Million removing 5.8 metres from the wall of the dam, without first conducting thorough tests on the dam."
He said the Government had steadfastly refused to give this region a commitment that Paradise Dam will be reinstated, forcing farmers to launch legal action against their own