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Big splash: Premier pledges $600m to fix Bundaberg's leaky dam

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The Palaszczuk Government says it will provide $600 million to help pay the cost of rebuilding a faulty dam wall that has been at the centre of a struggle by fruit and vegetable growers to ensure they have enough water.

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The Paradise Dam near Bundaberg is a vital water source for one of Australia’s most productive farming regions but its 300,000 megalitre capacity was reduced by more than 40 per cent after it was deemed unsafe if a major flood hit the region.

Local farmers have been fighting dam operator Sunwater which had been reluctant to restore the dam’s wall to its full height despite its importance to the region’s economic future.

Now, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says her government will contribute $600 million to “kickstart” the rebuild, but wants the Federal Government to commit to another $600 million to fully fund construction.

“The rebuild would be a game changer for the people of Bundaberg and the Wide Bay, providing water security and safety for communities downstream,” she said.

“We’ll work closely with the Commonwealth to ensure we secure this funding which will support thousands of long-term jobs and mean so much to the Wide Bay community.”

However, she said the government was committed to rebuilding the sam with or without fedeal help.

“Let me be clear – regardless of Federal support, I am fully committed to rebuilding Paradise Dam,” she said.

It would be the government’s largest single investment in water infrastructure since it came to power in 2015.

The announcement is likely to increase political pressure on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to agree to the funding ahead of the upcoming federal election, due by May.

Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt, the local federal MP for the region, has previously campaigned for the dam to be restored to its full capacity, lashing the state government over its “incompetence” in its original construction.

The dam wall, completed in 2005, had to be lowered in 2020 for major repairs due to the discovery of problems with its original construction. That caused water allocations to local irrigators to be severely cut, putting the livelihoods of hundreds of growers in potential jeopardy.

Construction is expected to begin next year.

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