IN THE PIPELINE?: Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie (left) and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk discuss progress on water security for the region.
IN THE PIPELINE?: Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie (left) and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk discuss progress on water security for the region.

STUCK IN THE PIPELINE: MP warns water security comes at cost

SIX months along and Southern Downs residents still have some pressing questions about the proposed Toowoomba to Warwick pipeline — namely how much the project could cost ratepayers.

Construction was meant to take place after the project was confirmed within the 2020/2021 state budget, but with the budget now suspended due to coronavirus, many have been left wondering when and how the project will move forward.

Seqwater, which operates the South East Queensland Water Grid, was meant to lead the $1 million feasibility study and report back to the Government on the preferred option by April 2020, but According to Natural Resources, Mines and Energy minister Anthony Lynham, the report hasn’t yet come before the government yet.

“Government and Seqwater officers continue to work closely with the Toowoomba Regional and Southern Downs Regional Councils, Seqwater and Queensland Treasury Corporation to finalise the pipeline options,” MP Lynham said.

This includes working to reduce any ongoing operating costs for local governments.”

While MP James Lister was happy to support current council plans, he did worry at the cost they could come to residents.

“The people in Toowoomba pay $1000 a year as a levy to fund the pipeline from Wivenhoe Dam to Toowoomba and it wouldn’t be unreasonable they would expect Warwick would pay for Toowoomba to Warwick as well as contribute to the cost of water up to Toowoomba from Wivenhoe,” he said.

“I’m just concerned we may sign up a blank cheque without the knowing the cost.”

Mr Lister encouraged Southern Downs Regional Council to consider alternative options they were currently investigating at such as obtaining a share of Leslie Dam for domestic purposes, Emu Swamp Dam, and the pipeline from Stanthorpe to Connolly Dam.

“At the end of the day, I’m very happy to support whatever council decides but it concerned me we could be stiffed for a large amount of money.”

In January, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited the region to finalise a route for the 87km gravity-fed pipeline and said she planned to use the Co-ordinator General’s power to move the project through as quickly as possible.

“We will not allow Queensland communities to run out of water,” she said.

“It could be completed within a 12 month period, or even faster if we use the Co-ordinator General’s power.

“I’m confident it will be by the end of next year.”

Toowoomba mayor Paul Antonio, at the time, criticised the state government for not being included in discussion of the study.

Leslie Dam currently sits as down to less than 13.9 per cent capacity while Storm King Dam is down to 17.5 per cent.

The Daily News reached out to mayor Vic Pennisi for comment but he did respond in time for our deadline.