Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged $5.4 billion to build the Hell’s Gate mega dam in Queensland as he tours the state promising the project will provide jobs, water, and food security for the region ahead of the federal elections expected by May.
Hell’s Gate Dam is expected to be four times the size of Sydney Harbour and is hoped to capture the country’s seasonal monsoonal rains and open up 60,000 hectares of agricultural lands in North Queensland.
“This is one of those projects that transforms the nation,” Morrison told Seven’s Sunrise program on March 23.
The 2,100 gigalitre dam is anticipated to provide irrigation across three agricultural zones in the Burdekin, and bolstered by three downstream irrigation weirs.
Touting a jobs boom for the region, with several thousand during construction and 3,000 ongoing once operational, the prime minister said the dam will turn North Queensland into an agricultural powerhouse, enabling farmers to stock supermarkets and feed Australians.
“We need to build more dams in Australia. Building dams makes our economy stronger by supporting our agricultural industries to realise their true potential,” Morrison said in a release. “Water is a precious resource and we need more dams to better use that resource.”
Hell’s Gate is anticipated to inject up to $1.3 billion of Gross Regional Product (GRP) into North Queensland’s economy during construction. Once operational, the project is anticipated to generate $6 billion of GRP.
The federal government will fund the project entirely and called on the Queensland government to “cut the green tape” and approve the project.
“We’re not going to require a cent from the Queensland Government because frankly, we don’t think that they would put in anyway. So we’re going to do it 100 per cent,” Morrison told Seven’s Sunrise program. “All we need them to do is get the big approve stamp out, approve it and let’s get on with it.”
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, who is the minister for infrastructure and regional development, said the project will move Australia closer to taking agricultural production to over $100 billion a year by 2030.
“The sooner water flows in the west, the sooner we can sell more products to the world and earn the money that will help make Australia as strong as possible as quickly as possible,” he said.
Scott Morrison’s announcing Hells Gate Dam again? Must be an election on.
— Terri Butler MP (@terrimbutler) March 22, 2022
While supportive of the project, Katter’s Australian Party state MP Robbie Katter had doubts about the current proposal.
“I hate being negative all the time when it comes to government,” Katter told 4BC radio on March 23. “I like the fact that they put money towards it. That’s great. But it would really amaze people when you’re in the world of politics just how ignorant people are when they talk about issues.”
He said the dam has been part of the first stage of the Bradfield Scheme for 80 years.
“Everyone throws it around as a catch phrase … before an election. But what they don’t realise is the proposal that’s tabled at the moment will kill the Bradfield scheme forever.
“So they’re funding to build a dam that’s not big enough to raise the water high enough to put pressure to send it across the Great Dividing Range onto the black salt plains, which was the sort of the whole plan from Bradfield in the first place,” he said.
Exports would flow through the Townsville Port and is expected to have a flow on effect for the northern city, according to federal MP Herbert Phillip Thompson.
“We’ve backed this project right from the start because it is something that will create jobs and drive the economy forward,” Thompson said.
“The Townsville Port is well-placed to handle exports from the region, especially after our forward planning and investment into the channel widening project.”