Urannah Dam cancellation a win for nature, says Mackay Conservation Group

December 16, 2022
Widi and Birrah country, which has now been protected. Photo: Mackay Conservation Group

The Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) is celebrating after the December 15 announcement that Urannah Dam had been withdrawn from the environmental assessment process.

Peter McCallum, MCG spokesperson, said the dam “never made sense from an environmental, economic or cultural perspective”.

“The dam’s negative economic return would most probably have led to its owners abandoning it in future, leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill. Even worse, we would have lost the best examples of pre-European river systems in Central Queensland,” he said.

The dam would have drowned large parts of the nationally-listed wetlands at Urannah and Massey Creeks, west of Mackay.

The Urannah Dam, first proposed in the 1950s, was not allocated funding by Labor in its budget. It was one of the dams that the Coalition govenrment used in its election campaign, despite detailed business cases not having been provided.

A recent detailed business case, produced by Bowen River Utilities, showed the dam would have lost funds.

The dam’s proponents planned to sell a large part of its water to the coal mining industry in Central Queensland. The dam would have also enabled the opening up of new agricultural land upstream from the Great Barrier Reef.

The recent United Nations World Heritage monitoring mission to the Great Barrier Reef singled out the dam for criticism. The report’s authors said the dam would have significant negative effects on reef water quality and described the project as “preposterous”.

The dam would have destroyed significant habitat for the Irwin’s turtle, along with irreplaceable vegetation, such as the threatened Black Ironbox.

McCallum said the MCG had been strongly encouraged by the area’s Traditional Owners, the Widi and Birrah peoples, who were opposed to the dam.

“We knew we were on the right side of history,” he said.

The federal government led by Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison handed out $25 million in taxpayer handouts for their Urannah Dam “fantasy”, he said.

“Now all that money has gone down the drain. The only beneficiaries are the people who were paid to produce the plans for a dam that made no sense.”

The MCG has vowed to ensure no government ever proposes to dam Urannah and Massey Creeks.

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