Local residents have welcomed the Federal Government’s proposed decision to reject the Traveston Dam project on the Mary River. Image: Arkin Mackay/www.stoppress.com.au
By Angela Dorizas
Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has announced a proposed decision to reject Queensland’s Traveston Dam project because the impacts on the environment would be too great.
Mr Garrett said the project could not go ahead without “unacceptable impacts” on threatened species in the Mary River, south of Gympie.
“I have based my proposed decision on the science presented to me, and the science shows that this project would have serious and irreversible effects on nationally listed species such as the Australian lungfish, the Mary River turtle and the Mary River cod,” Mr Garrett said.
“The area that would be flooded by this proposal is critical habitat for populations of these species.
“The evidence before me showed that flooding this habitat would have serious consequences for those species, including on their ability to breed and maintain population numbers.”
In making his preliminary decision, Mr Garrett also took into consideration the social and economic impacts of the project. He said an independent review by the Centre for International Economics created “serious doubt” about the economic benefits of the Traveston Dam.
“The likely economic and social benefits of this proposal do not outweigh the serious environmental impacts on our nationally protected species,” Mr Garrett said.
Sunshine Coast Mayor Bob Abbot said Mr Garrett’s announcement was a win for the local community.
“We’re over the moon,” Cr Abbot told GovernmentNews.
He said the Traveston Dam project had caused a great deal of “heartache” for local residents and businesses.
“What we’ve got to do now is try to lift the Mary Valley back out of the doldrums,” Cr Abbot said.
“It was a vibrant, efficient, highly productive community four years ago and it’s had the guts ripped out of it.
“Now we’ve got to get it back to what it used to be.”
Federal shadow minister for climate change, environment and water, Greg Hunt, warned that Mr Garrett’s announcement was only a preliminary decision.
“It is time to drive a stake through the heart of the Traveston Dam plan once and for all,” Mr Hunt said in a statement.
“It is a terrible proposal which must not be revived.
“The Premier must announce the scrapping of the project and instead turn to other more effective options for water supply.”
Premier Anna Bligh said pursuing an alternative water supply would lead to higher water costs.
“A dam at Traveston Crossing was the cheapest and most reliable way of properly planning for a growing population, for future drought and for climate change,” she said.
“Everyone needs drinking water and Traveston is the cheapest water source available for a growing South East Queensland.”
Ms Bligh said the Federal Government’s decision had “struck a serious blow” to South East Queensland’s water security, leaving her with no alternative but to bring forward construction of new desalination plants at Lytton and Marcoola by 2018.
“That will mean significantly higher economic and environmental costs,” she said.
Additional desalination plants may be constructed at Tugun and Bribie Island, subject to population growth, drought and climate change.
Under federal environment law, relevant Commonwealth ministers have 10 business days to comment on the proposed decision before Mr Garrett announces his final verdict on November 25.
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