The Bradfield inland irrigation scheme was dreamt up in the 1930s by engineer Dr John Bradfield, the man behind Sydney’s Harbour Bridge.
The concept included forging a new river to divert northern floodwaters across the state to the drought-prone southwest, and a tunnel and aqueduct through the Flinders Range.
“We know that access to affordable water for irrigation can foster expanded agribusiness and jobs in regional Queensland,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a statement.
“Projects like this have the potential to support a new generation of farmers, landholders and regional communities if it’s done in a way that is realistic and affordable.”
The panel will assess if the scheme – or a modernised version like it – meets a broad range of financial, economic, environmental, social and technical checkpoints, including the impact on the Great Barrier Reef.
Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the premier had raised the idea with the Morrison government in October but was forging ahead with its own assessment.
Labor MP Aaron Harper, whose seat of Thuringowa played host to the announcement, said water storage projects were already being considered in northern Queensland.
“There’s three business cases under way or in hand – raising Burdekin Falls Dam, Hells Gate Dam and Big Rocks Weir and Urannah Dam has been declared a coordinated project.”
Harper holds his seat by a slim 4.1 per cent margin. Scott Stewart, who holds the most marginal seat in the state at nearby Townsville by just 0.4 per cent, also attended Monday’s announcement.
Queenslanders will go to the polls on October 31.
The panel, which also includes Queensland Farmers’ Federation chief executive Dr Georgina Davis and James Cook University Professor Allan Dale will deliver their findings within 12 months.
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