Communities fight to save Mary River

August 16, 2008

In a reprise of the battle to save the Franklin River, rural and urban communities are uniting to oppose plans by the Queensland state government to construct a dam across the Mary River. David White asked Steve Posselt about the campaign.

@question = Why did you become involved?

Last year I paddled a kayak down the Darling and Murray Rivers from Queensland to Adelaide. That voyage was undertaken to highlight the urgent need for action to save our river systems, and how climate change and human activity are destroying them.

This year, I realised that the Mary River dam and the associated pipeline would be a huge source of greenhouse gases — about 400,000 tonnes annually. Unique and endangered species are at risk, and prime rural land and local communities are threatened by the dam.

So I decided to paddle a kayak up the Brisbane River, pull it over the ranges and then paddle down the Mary River to its mouth. You can read about it on the <> website. My journey convinced me that this is not the way to provide a reliable water supply for Brisbane.

@question = Where is the government planning to construct the dam, and what area will be affected?

They want to put it in the middle reaches of the Mary River, about 100km north west of Brisbane. The dam would cover 76 square kilometres. Nearly all the land affected is either prime agricultural land, rural township land or high ecological value riparian [riverside] forest.

@question = What is the dam expected to cost?

The total cost, including the pipelines, is $265 billion, plus the cost of relocating highways, powerlines and other infrastructure.

@question = Is a new dam essential for Brisbane's water security? Is the Mary River the right location? Are there other alternatives?

The government's own water strategy document clearly shows that a new dam will not be needed when its new water recycling scheme and the desalination plant come on line shortly. The water in the dam would not be required for more than 25 years. Its location means that, in a prolonged drought, it would be nearly useless. The sandy alluvial soil of the Mary also means that it's not the best location for a dam.

The dam would only be used to collect and store water that would normally flow down the Mary, and pump it 100km over a mountain range into another river basin. Other, more cost-effective and reliable water supply options like stormwater harvesting, industrial water recycling and water efficiency measures must be implemented now.

@question = How is the river's ecosystem likely to be affected by a dam?

The Mary is regarded by the scientific community as the most significant river in south east Queensland, with high conservation and biodiversity values.

The Queensland lungfish, the Mary River cod and the Mary River turtle would be affected. They are all only found in healthy numbers in the Mary River. All are unique and endangered. They are all under threat of extinction due to the loss of their natural habitat and reduced water flows.

@question = How would the local communities and economy be affected?

As homes and businesses close, the social fabric of local communities has already been shattered. The regional economy would be severely impacted by the loss of so much prime agricultural land and many small businesses.

@question = How far has the state's proposal advanced?

The necessary environmental impact processes are ongoing. If approved at state level, it must then be approved by the federal minister for the environment.

@question = How can readers get involved in the campaign?

Visit for information and resources about the proposal and its impacts. Visit the Mary River valley and experience its beauty and join the Save The Mary River group in Brisbane, or in the Mary Valley, or the Greater Mary Association in Maryborough and Hervey Bay.

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