THE Wide Bay region has a diverse agricultural sector, representing 12 per cent of agricultural production in Queensland worth more than $1.5 billion.
Despite the significant contribution the industry makes to the Queensland economy, local growers are facing tougher growing conditions as significant rainfall avoids the region amid fears the region's major water source, Paradise Dam, could run out of water following the state government's decision to lower its wall by 50pc.
Abbotsleigh Citrus in Gin Gin employs between 30 to 50 local workers during the year. Parent company Nutrano Produce Group general manager Josh Clementson said changes to their water allocation might see jobs leave the region.
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"Our property has been devalued and now we have to ask ourselves is this the right region to farm in, or even the right state?" Mr Clementson said.
The farm has just set up an extra 18 hectares of irrigated land and is planning for another 100ha for its citrus crop.
"If you take away 50pc of our water allocation, where do we go? We've planned an expansion over three years, and we've spent a lot of money. We're now weighing up stopping future development."
Bundaberg macadamia grower Michael McMahon has planted more than 140ha of macadamia trees in the last eight months, with another 120ha planned in the next 12 months.
He said without decent inflows in the dam soon, the region could face historically low announced allocations.
"We bought farms with two sources of water and we have access to on-farm water storage, but if these dry conditions continue we won't have enough water for our macadamia trees," Mr McMahon said.
"I have no issues with safety, no-one wants to put any lives at risk, but we would argue there was another way to fix Paradise Dam without tearing the wall down."
He said news of possible very low water allocations in July was driving local farmers to fast-track a class action.
Local lawyer, Tom Marland from Marland Law who is spearheading the class action, said farmers have been eager to see the class action fast tracked since word of the dam's dire situation became public.
"I can understand why the local farming community is so worried about the potential of very low announced allocations in July this year," Mr Marland said.
"It'd be like asking the average household to survive on 5 per cent of their normal groceries budget.......it's simply unworkable."
Class action expert Mr Douglas Campbell QC along with barristers Matthew Donovan and Justin Byrne, have also been engaged to assist with the development of the case.
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