Up River cane grower Tony Large doesn't believe the proposed Urannah Dam will greatly benefit the people of Proserpine.
Up River cane grower Tony Large doesn't believe the proposed Urannah Dam will greatly benefit the people of Proserpine. Peter Carruthers

Deputy mayor takes aim at Shadow Minister for Tourism

A VISIT by the Shadow Minister for Tourism and the Environment to the Whitsundays last week had the proposed Urannah Dam pitched as a silver bullet fix for the Proserpine economy.

When asked while visiting Airlie Beach what could be done to help kick-start the region, David Crisafulli said the answer was jobs.

Jobs would be provided by the damming of the Broken River Valley southeast of Collinsville and a projected storage capacity of 863,000ML would turn marginal agricultural land into productive sugar cane country.

But Mr Crisafulli was criticised by Deputy Mayor John Collins for making comment on the plight of Proserpine without actually visiting the town.

"It amazes me how they can find time to visit the beach and get a photo with a Canadian tourist, yet could not find the time to walk the streets of Proserpine and talk to the residents and businesses still suffering hardship from Cyclone Debbie nearly 11 months later,” Cr Collins wrote on Facebook.

On the positive outcomes the dam could generate for Prosperine, Cr Collins was lukewarm.

"It has been thrown around for decades,” he said.

"I think it's a great idea - a dam that can help is a great, great idea.

"(But) I don't really think it will create jobs in Proserpine. There will be jobs in the long run but I don't think it's going to help Proserpine in the short term.”

Up River cane grower and former Proserpine Show Society president of 12 years Tony Large questioned whether sugar cane could be successfully grown in the area.

"There is nothing happening there,” he said.

"They say there is over 300 hectares of good-quality agricultural land.

"Big deal. There is good agricultural land all around Bowen but you don't see them growing cane or produce there because they are all growing it down around Bundaberg and in the Burdekin, where there is plenty of water.

"Build the dam in Collinsville or Townsville where it is going to do some good.

"If Queensland was my business I would be doing something else to generate industry and employment, I wouldn't build the Urannah Dam.”

Mr Crisafulli made it clear when he visited last week the water could serve dual mining and agricultural uses.

Mr Large said there would never be cane grown in the Broken River Valley.

"The return on investment on a mill and on a cane farm is somewhere between 4 and 6 per cent,” he said.

"If you have two million bucks you don't go and buy a cane farm.”

As the cartage of the product from the Broken River field to the Proserpine mill would further reduce the profit margin, Mr Large suggested it wasn't economically viable.

"You won't grow cane out there, the figures just don't stack up,” Mr Large said.

Major proponent of the proposed dam, the Bowen Collinsville Enterprise, is in negotiations with the State Government, which has been directed by the Federal Government to release $3million for a dam feasibility study.

A spokesperson for BCE said the organisation was finalising grant deeds that would fund investigations into the viability of the project.

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"The place was packed and it was a really good time,” he said.

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