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Theodore Channel Irrigation Scheme in local hands, finally

Theodore irrigators and allocation holders stand to increase their agricultural production and have a much greater say in the running of irrigation infrastructure now that the Theodore Channel Scheme will be run by locals.

Deputy Premier and Member for Callide Jeff Seeney said the LNP Government began an investigation into transferring the management of the SunWater Schemes to local farmers in 2012 and was now ready to move to the next phase.

“This pilot initiative of our government has tested the feasibility of transferring irrigation distribution assets from the government to entities managed by the water users supplied by the scheme,” Mr Seeney said.

“I am excited to be able to say Theodore is one of four irrigation schemes ready to transition to local management.

“This is a once in an 80-year opportunity for our community, so it turns out.

“1933 was the first time the State led an inquiry into how to better run the Theodore Irrigation Scheme and plans were devised in 1949/50 but were never acted upon.

“Now 81 years and six plans later, Theodore irrigators have gained control of their irrigation infrastructure. 

“It’s good to be part of a grown-up government that is willing to empower country people and communities and realises services will always be delivered best when local people are involved.”

Theodore Channel Local Management Arrangement (LMA) interim board chair Liz Alexander was over the moon upon hearing Theodore Channel irrigation Scheme would be managed by locals.

“We are absolutely delighted – I can’t say it any simpler than that,” Ms Alexander said.

“This will mean we will be able to get the scheme in really good order again and be ready and able to take advantage of future opportunities.

“It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity that will have impacts for decades and decades to come and we have to ensure we get it right.”

Ms Alexander said the interim board’s report had found transferring irrigation distribution assets to a locally managed entity would reduce costs and provide the opportunity to modernise infrastructure.

“About half of the costs for the Theodore Channel water scheme currently have been overhead and administration,” she said.

“With the Theodore water scheme being transferred to local management, we are confident we can reduce these costs as we’re small and don’t need the complexity of systems required by a large government-owned corporate office in Brisbane.

“A key goal for all local irrigators with moving to local management is to upgrade and modernise the scheme’s ageing irrigation infrastructure. Critical parts of the current infrastructure are expensive to run, maintain and repair and can’t deliver water efficiently. 

“Without modernisation of the infrastructure, irrigators on the Theodore Channel Scheme cannot fully take advantage of the additional water coming into the Dawson River from the end of 2014.

“When in full production, QGC’s Woleebee Creek to Glebe Weir Pipeline project will be providing up to an additional 36.500 megalitres of treated CSG water per year to the Dawson River Water Supply Scheme.

“What this means for a scheme like Theodore can’t be underestimated. A guaranteed water supply ensures that irrigators can plant the full area of their farms as well as providing opportunities to double crop – have two crops a year – which will give great dividends to the local economy.”

The four irrigation schemes the Queensland Government has determined are ready to transition to local management are Emerald, Eton, St George and Theodore.

There are eight interim boards now investigating local management opportunities for eight SunWater channel irrigation schemes across Queensland: Theodore, Bundaberg, Burdekin-Haughton, Emerald, Eton, Lower Mary, Mareeba-Dimbulah and St George.

A call for expressions of interest for directors on the new boards will go out in the near future. For more information visit www.dews.qld.gov.au/policies-initiatives/water-sector-reform/local-management-arrangements-for-sunwater-irrigation-channels

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