Interview with John MacKenzie, 4CA

John MacKenzie: Now you might remember this is only going back a week or so we had Jeff Pezzutti on the program. Jeff's a former deputy mayor of our city. Jeff says we are facing a crisis here, if we have a couple of dry seasons in a row, we've got real issues. Now what have we been talking about? Nullinga Dam, we've just recently had the state government say, oh I'm not going to do this for a long time there's no real need for it, it's too dare anyway, et cetera. Well really? Even if they'd said yes, it would have been 10 years before we had access probably to water out in Nullinga. Jeff makes the point that we were looking at Flaggy Creek as an alternative. Basically it was part two of the Copperlode Dam Project that was canned years ago. So we are facing a real crisis in Jeff Pezzutti's view and a whole lot of people started talking about this, so I'm glad I'm talking with Michael McCormack. Now Michael, good morning.

Michael McCormack: Good morning, John. I'm actually in Launceston, Tasmania actually having a look at a dam project that we've invested $25 million in and even though the dam isn't quite finished yet, the walls up, it's actually already half full. So it's supposed to be completed February next year and you know what? We've already got it half full of water.

John MacKenzie: But it's an all too rare dam project and this is a point you've actually made and you've actually acknowledged the fact that across northern Australia we're crying out for water security up here. Expand on that for us.

Michael McCormack: Well I was pleased last year when the CSIRO identified six potential dam sites at three river catchment areas across the north. We are putting in place the National Water Grid Authority. It was [indistinct]. Certainly will have Queensland representation on that. I know Warren Entsch and George Christensen and others are committed to making sure that we get more water storage infrastructure in the north. I am too. You know, you don't measure water up there in terms of millimetres, you sometimes measure it in terms of metres quite frankly, and we should be harvesting that water, we should be harnessing it for agriculture's benefit and indeed, for the advantage of all the community up there.

John MacKenzie: Well the point that Jeff Pezzutti made the other day, and he's a gentleman who was actually involved in quite an extensive study over a period of time some years ago, the point he's making is now we're a city of 160,000, they're talking about us being a quarter of a million in about 15 or so years. And clearly, when we've got a booming tourism season—it hasn't happened this year but it often does—there's real demands. We've got three new international hotels just opening up here. So suddenly he believes if we have a couple of dry seasons, we've got a crisis on our hands. Where do we go from here to get attention to this matter?

Michael McCormack: Well look any plans that are being drawn up, any proposals that have had the ruler run across them, I'd love for the National Water Grid Authority to get their hands, when it starts, on those proposals, on those plans. Look, we want to make sure that we build water storage infrastructure. Of course, we need to do it with the compliance of the states, but where the states are unwilling, I want the National Water Grid Authority to make sure that they use the best available science, but particularly with local stakeholder engagements, that's perhaps where Jeff and others—interested parties—come in. I mean we look at the Emu Swamp Dam, it's a little bit further south but still in Queensland, their irrigators put $24.3 million behind that proposal. And I'm down here in Tasmania where they also put millions of dollars, backed themselves to the tune of millions of dollars for this project that I'm looking at today. So you've got local stakeholder engagement, if you've got the right plans and proposals you know, let's get on with it.

John MacKenzie: Exactly. Alright. The National Water Grid Authority might be our next step. Michael, I know you're in a hell of a hurry but I appreciate this today. Thank you.

Michael McCormack: Anytime at all John.

John MacKenzie: His name's Michael McCormack. Today he's the Acting Australian Prime Minister and he's in Launceston.