WIDE Bay farmers have welcomed a recent funding commitment from the Palaszczuk government to restore Paradise Dam, but say the class action won't stop.
On Tuesday, the state government announced it would commit up to $600 million to kickstart the rebuild of Paradise Dam to its original height. With a total rebuild cost of $1.2 billion, the Premier is relying on the federal government to match their commitment to deliver the project.
In August 2020, a group of Bundaberg farmers launched a class action focused on the alleged negligent management of Paradise Dam and deceptive and misleading conduct by Sunwater and the Queensland government.
BUNDABERG macadamia grower Michael McMahon backs the class action against the state government.
Mr McMahon said he was surprised at the premier's announcement earlier this week, after two years of false hope.
"I thought I should be happy about this, but I still had a sour taste in my mouth," Mr McMahon said.
"When the premier announced the decision to remediate the dam late last year, it didn't really give me any great deal of confidence that there's going to be any follow through.
"It was promising to hear that they would commit to repairing their mistake."
Mr McMahon said without the advocacy from their local MP Tom Smith, they would have struggled to get their voices heard in Parliament.
"We've been lucky to have Tom Smith in the region. He has fought hard for us on this issue. There's a lot of people that have played a part in getting to where we are now, but I think our local member deserves a pat on the back," he said.
"All my all my interactions, discussions and communications with the Water Minister Glenn Butcher have been good too."
However, Mr McMahon said there is still a lot of anger about how Paradise Dam has been handled.
"It gives me more confidence that they're going to actually fix it, but really, all they're doing is fixing something that they didn't do properly in the first place," he said.
"It's not a new water infrastructure project for the region. It makes me angry almost to think that their heroes for the region or we should give them a big pat on the back.
"They put us through a lot in the last two years."
LIKE many growers in the region, the McMahons were forced to spend thousands establishing on-farm water infrastructures, as a substitute to the water they should have received from Paradise.
Mr McMahon said with out the drought-breaking rain in November, local growers would have been facing catastrophic crop losses.
"It really would have been quite a dire situation for people with trees that are in production," he said.
"For the avocado growers, they couldn't afford not to have the water, so they paid record prices for temporary water back early in the piece well before it rained.
"They've spent a lot of money on water on temporary water that I don't really need now, but I suppose they I had to make a call and it was better than losing it losing their trees.
"We've been lucky with getting on farm rain. We're pretty early on in journey with tree crop with the macadamia farm and they haven't used a lot of water.
"I have spent a lot of money on water infrastructure and I'll be able to grow this orchard for the next couple of years without a reliance on Paradise Dam water."
MR McMahon said he is very focused on pursuing the class action and wants to hold those responsible to account.
"It was very dire. There were a lot of people in some very ordinary places mentally," he said.
"I want to send a strong message to this government and to future governments that no, this is not okay, you can't do this to communities and you can't do it to the farmers in the regions."
Bundaberg agribusiness lawyer Tom Marland who is leading the class action on behalf of local farmers, said the government's commitment is welcome news for a community which spent two years grappling with uncertainty about the dam's future.
Mr Marland, like many others, said he wont rest until the dam is fully restored and full of water.
"There has been an enormous amount of heart break, angst and loss that has accumulated over the last two and a half years and an announcement to give my community back what they already had hasn't been met with parades in the street," he said.
"There are still a lot of questions around why Queensland and Australian taxpayers are having to spend $1.2 billion to "fix" a dam that was only built 15 years ago.
"The Federal Government have been supportive of restoring Paradise Dam from the day one, but they have been waiting on a business plan from the Premier."
Mr Marland said the recent decision was a result of the tireless efforts of the local farming community, and works with both sides of politics.
"I also take my hat off to the first term member for Bundaberg Tom Smith for the work he has done to bring Paradise Dam to his colleagues' attention," he said.
"A lesser politician would have just focused on his own electorate and done his time without wanting to ruffle any feathers. I say this with all sincerity that we were lucky to have a bloke like Tom Smith on our side.
"But unfortunately, the Paradise Dam class action is still forging ahead... to try and recoup the significant losses already experienced in this region because of the mismanagement of Paradise Dam."
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