Paradise Dam. Photo: File.
Paradise Dam. Photo: File.

OPINION: Questioning where Queensland’s priorities lie

The Queensland State Government's controversial Cross River Rail Project is set to cost Queensland Taxpayers $12 billion for the 10.2 km inner city rail link.

The Cross River Rail Business Case projected net benefits of $1.9 billion over 30 years - based on a $5.4 billion construction cost.

The reported $7 billion cost blow out easily wipes out these net benefits. In a worst-case scenario, the project could deliver a net loss to the community of around $5 billion, or $1,000 for every Queenslander.

When it comes to building railway lines and tunnels in inner city electorates, it appears that financial viability is a distant consideration with reports focused on "people seeking

connections between places of residence, employment, recreation and public and private institutions".

Yet, when it comes to the construction and maintenance of dams in regional Queensland, the only focus is full cost recovery with dry comments about "commercially viable infrastructure development that does not place a financial burden on the state's budget".

Dams are vital to managing water shortages on one of the driest continents in the world.

Not only do they support our cities and towns, but they support agriculture and industry which drives real economic growth and long-term jobs.

Paradise Dam, for example, currently supports over 8000 jobs and helps support a $1 Billion per year agricultural industry in the Bundaberg region.

The cost of inaction on repairing Paradise Dam is estimated to hurt the economy to the tune of $2.4 Billion over 30 years.

Interestingly, a recent report by the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy into Queensland's bulk water security strategy found that Sunwater, a Queensland Government-

owned service provider which owns and manages water infrastructure assets, has an infrastructure replacement value of around $13.7 billion.

This means we could expand and duplicate Sunwater's water infrastructure for virtually the same cost as the Cross River Rail.

No economist in the world could argue that Cross River Rail can generate the same wealth and job opportunities as the 19 dams, 64 weirs and barrages, 625 kilometres of water channels, 76 major pumping stations, 2100 kilometres of pipelines and 5 water treatment plants that Sunwater owns.

You really have to wonder if the Cross River Rail would have ever received funding if it was a dam instead of an inner city railway line.

This current Labor Government happily waste money to pull a dam wall down rather than fix it, yet, when it comes to inner city bridges, tunnels and railway lines - go for your life, budget is no obstacle.

Sadly, dams are usually located where there aren't too many votes, despite the wealth they create being spread across the state and the nation.

Tom Marland, Marland Law