I visited Maryborough, Bundaberg and Gympie today, travelling around in a small twin engine plane and driving the last part from Gympie back to Brisbane, getting back home about 11pm.
I spoke mainly about water issues (as well as about the specific importance of the Queensland Senate contest, which not surprisingly I do everywhere I go). As seems to often happen when I’m campaigning on water, it rained almost the entire day, which meant some low slow flying staying below the clouds and a fair bit of circling looking for breaks in the storm clouds while waiting to land.
I don’t really like doing rapid-fire visits to towns. It feels rather artificial to charge into a place, talk to a few people or hold one meeting, tell the media why you’re there and then leave again. However, when your electorate is the size of Queensland and there’s an election campaign on, it is sometimes necessary.
The destructive, expensive and unnecessary Traveston dam was the main topic of conversation in Gympie, which is the main town in the region being hit the hardest and most immediately by the dam, and in Maryborough which is downstream.
There has been less attention paid to the areas and consequences downstream of the dam wall, but opposition is growing and getting more organised in this area too. After it passes through Gympie, the Mary River flows down past Maryborough and Hervey Bay through Ramsar wetlands of international significance and into the world heritage listed Great Sandy Strait and Fraser Island.
The impact on water quality and environmental flows downstream into this very sensitive and significant bird and fish breeding habitat has not much focus, but is very important in its own right. The hugely significant and endangered Queensland lungfish has received most of the attention in regards to the environmental impacts of the dam, and to a lesser extent the rare Mary River turtle. But the impact on species and biodiversity downstream also merits closer examination.
Of course even without the massive environmental impacts, the proposed Traveston dam is a less reliable, more expensive and energy intensive piece of water infrastructure than many other alternatives. But the state government does seem grimly determined to build it no matter what, which leaves the ball very much in the federal government’s court to use their powers under federal environment law to stop the thing.
I see it as my role to do all I can to help people locally to ensure the federal government fulfils its legal obligation to stop such an environmentally destructive and unnecessary project. It is unfortunate that there has been so little public opposition to such a wasteful and destructive project from the people of Brisbane, which is where a lot of the water from the dam would eventually be pumped to – the energy and financial cost just from continually pumping such a large volume of water such a long distance is a big enough argument in itself to pursue alternatives.
The dam seems to breach aspects of the federal environment law more directly than the pulp mill in Tasmania, yet more Brisbane people seem concerned about the pulp mill than the destructive dam just up the road! This really does strike me as odd, but I can only assume far too many of us have been taken in by the Queensland government’s propaganda avalanche implying that Brisbane will run out of water in the future unless the dam is built.