Update on the long journey towards Rookwood Weir partnership
ROOKWOOD Weir will eventually be owned and operated in a manner unlike any of Queensland’s other water infrastructure projects, but it’s taking years of behind the scenes negotiations to hammer out a joint partnership agreement.
Given states customarily owned and operate their water infrastructure, the Queensland Government’s request in 2018 to own, operate and carry the risk of the $352 million Rookwood Weir project together with the Federal Government was unprecedented and is yet to be ratified.
When asked about the joint partnership negotiations while she was in Rockhampton last week, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was unable to provide an update but said her government’s money was being spent on the project, unlike the Federal Government’s.
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said the Queensland Government was to blame for the hold up in negotiations.
“(They) still have not decided on the final construction plans of Rookwood Weir and a joint partnership agreement can’t be signed until they do that,” Ms Landry said.
“Again, the Queensland Government chooses to act like a shonky builder you see on A Current Affair’s program, asking for all of your money while without showing you the construction plans.”
Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham confirmed that Commonwealth and State officials continued to discuss a final financial arrangement.
In January, Sunwater short-listed two potential constructors – Lendlease-McCosker and McDowell-Obayashi that have since worked with Sunwater (construction authority) and GHD (design partner) where they were provided with the information needed to design and deliver an innovative and quality submission.
“Once the construction partner is selected, potentially next month, Sunwater and the successful company will finalise design of the weir,” Dr Lynham said.
An intensive evaluation process is underway with the Rookwood Weir Project team planning to announce in July its preferred proponent to partner with Sunwater and GHD to form the Rookwood Weir Alliance.
Ms Landry has continually accused the Queensland Government of “dragging their feet on Rookwood Weir”.
She pleaded with them to finalise the construction plans for Rookwood Weir, allowing construction to start and deliver certainty to Central Queensland farmers.
“They’ve changed the total construction costs three times in four years and the total water allocation four times in seven months,” she said.
“Now, more than ever, we need projects that help boost Australia’s agriculture industry and provide secure local jobs to Central Queenslanders,” she said.
According to Ms Landry, federal funding would be paid to the to the Queensland Government as it completed each milestone in the Rookwood Project.
“The Australian Government funds water projects through a National Partnerships Agreement with each state,” she said.
“As with every infrastructure project funded through this mechanism, funds are paid to the states on completion of milestones outlined in the funding schedule.”
Given the unique arrangement with the Rookwood Project, Dr Lynham disagreed in this instance that the release of federal funding should be tied to milestones.
“Discussions to date do not revolve around any milestones other than achieving agreement,” he said.
Despite being provided detailed costings for the project, Dr Lynham was frustrated by the Commonwealth’s lack of commitment to furthering this project.
“The Palaszczuk Government has been trying to complete an agreement for months now with the LNP Federal Government to extract the contribution they promised the people of Central Queensland,” he said.
“All work to date has been State funded, including the upgrading of Thirsty Creek Road and upgrading of the Capricorn Highway at Gogango.
“I have written to the Deputy Prime Minister confirming a yield of 76,000 megalitres of medium priority water, and Sunwater and my department have been consulting local industry ahead of water tenders opening in less than two weeks.
“They also continue to consult urban water users.”
He hoped Ms Landry would step up for her constituents and join the Queensland Government in progressing this project.
“In the meantime, Sunwater and my department continue to work on delivering the water to customers, and finalising a construction partner,” he said.
Queensland Senator Matt Canavan said the finalisation of the partnership agreement was a matter for the Ministers.
“My understanding is that we are still waiting for the final design before the agreement can be finalised,” he said.
“It would be better if that final design would be the size of the real Rookwood not the fake Rookwood that the Labor government is trying to short change us with.”