Tony Abbott has received a shortlist of 30 potential dam projects from a ministerial task force headed by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, as part of efforts to make good on the Coalition’s infrastructure campaigning during the last federal election.
The shortlist encompasses both the construction of new dams and the expansion of pre-existing dams in Western Australia, Queensland, NSW and Tasmania.
In the Sunshine State, proposed projects include a new dam on the Fitzroy River just south of Rockhampton, the expansion of the Burdekin Dam in the north of the state, and the Nathan Dam near Brisbane.
A raft of new dam projects are envisaged for NSW, including an upgrade of the Chaffey Dam near Tamworth and the Menindee Lakes upgrade, both of which have received funding commitments from the Commonwealth, as well as the Needles Gap Dam and the Apsely Dam, which was shelved in the 1980s by the Wran government.
The shortlist also includes the third stage of the Ord River Scheme in the northernmost part of Western Australia, which could help shift water from Western Australia back into the Northern Territory, and a dam project in north-west Tasmania.
The Coalition made the construction of more dams a part of its federal election campaign, during which Abbott billed himself as an infrastructure Prime Minister in waiting.
The dams are primarily intended to support the growth of Australia's agricultural and mining sector and to help revitalise the country's regional economies. Joyce pointed to the need for more dams to better prepare Australia for the huge potential market for agricultural goods in Asia, as well as the next cyclical upswing in the resources sector.
The damming of the Fitzroy River and the construction of the Nathan Dam in particular will provide benefits to Queensland's water hungry agriculture and mining industries.
Joyce said the delivery of the shortlist of dam projects was a sign of the government's determination to make good on its infrastructure campaigning at the last election. He warned, however, that not all of the 30 projects on the shortlist, which had been narrowed down from a total of 100 proposals from prior to the election, were guaranteed to proceed, and that the assessment process was still ongoing.
According to government sources, around half of the projects on the list could commence work quickly, while the remainder would require further consideration.
The federal cabinet will consider the dams report in several weeks, with the final decision on which project to support to be made by Prime Minister Abbott.