A major new dam proposed for the Burnett river in southeast Queensland, Australia, is expected to create 7500 jobs and provide $1.7 to $2.9B in economic benefits, according to a recently completed Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The new dam, to be situated 80km south-west of Bundaberg, is the key element of the Burnett Catchment Water Infrastructure Project proposed by Burnett Water, a company owned by the State of Queensland.

Other elements of the project include the construction of new weirs at Eidsvold and Barlil and the raising of the existing Jones and Walla weirs.

Burnett Water commissioned consulting firm, Sinclair Knight Merz, to assist with the preparation of Environmental Impact Studies for the Burnett river dam and the Barlil, Jones and Walla weirs.

In his second reading speech to the Queensland parliament on the Water Infrastructure (Burnett Basin) Amendment Bill 2001, the minister for state development, Tom Barton, praised all the parties for their contributions to the EIS.

‘I am sure honourable members will recognise that completion of these impact assessments in a five month period required the dedication and cooperation of a large number of people,’ he said.

The EIS was prepared by Sinclair Knight Merz to fulfil the requirements of both the State and Commonwealth governments.

It confirmed that the Burnett region is falling behind the rest of the country in terms of economic growth.

Unemployment rates in the region are among the highest in Australia and employment growth is low, with incomes generally 70-80% of the Queensland average.

Agriculture, particularly sugarcane, dominates the region’s economy and irrigated agriculture accounts for more than 66% of the value of all agricultural production.

The EIS confirmed that economic growth in the region’s agricultural, urban and industrial sectors is largely dependent on the availability of good water supplies and that the existing shortage of water in the Lower Burnett basin was limiting growth.

It supported the project’s primary objectives, which included the development of the $168M dam to provide a reliable source of water for agricultural, industrial and urban use.

The draft EIS was put to the community for comment and it attracted more than 230 submissions, the significant majority of which were strongly supportive of the project.

A Supplementary Report was subsequently prepared and submitted to Queensland’s coordinator-general of state development.

The coordinator-general’s own report endorsed the recommendations put forward in the EIS, and formulated conditions for the project’s development.

Both the State and Commonwealth governments have now approved the EIS.