Locals excited with huge project to create $1b for industry
A BLUE ribbon of water up to 60 kilometres long stretching across the often dusty plains of central Queensland is the dream about to come true for a legendary Australian who has devoted much of his life to Australian agriculture.
Larry Acton, the man whose drive created the broadacre lobby group AgForce by amalgamating the Queensland Grain Growers Association, the Cattlemen's Union and the United Graziers' Association, can't wait for the bulldozers to start work on Rookwood Weir on the Fitzroy River west of Rockhampton.
Mr Acton won't gain much financially from the project, with his property "Riverton" which runs a commercial herd of Braford cattle put at disadvantage for at least a year because of the presence of work crews.
But he, along with thousands of primary producers across the state, who have been loudly calling for a return of the state's dam building culture, says he can handle the inconvenience in return for the pleasure of seeing Queensland's farm sector developed.
EARLIER: Gladstone's industry is heavily reliant on water, reporter Campbell Gellie explains:
Mr Acton says the state's wealth was built on projects like the Eungella Dam west of Mackay, which fuelled the mining boom in the Mackay hinterland, and the Fairbairn Dam near Emerald, which sparked hundreds of millions of dollars of agricultural development.
The Rookwood Weir, with an $130 million commitment from the Federal Government already on the table, expected to be soon backed by a similar commitment from the State Government, will provide water for an agricultural boom west of Rockhampton which the Commonwealth believes will be worth about $1billion to the region.
It will also provide leverage for the local council's efforts to turn the Rockhampton Airport into an accredited international airport.
But to Mr Acton the real money is going to be made in the hinterland, as the softwood scrub and brigalow country which covers a mixture of rich dark and red soils, gives way to farms producing anything from grapes and peanuts to lychees, citrus and other fruit and vegetables, all fed with water from the Rookwood weir project.
"People have no idea what can be grown out here if we have the water," he says.