An ambitious plan to build an enormous water-skiing complex in drought-stricken outback Queensland is drawing opposition, with critics labelling it irresponsible.
Barcaldine Mayor Rob Chandler is driving the plan to build the circuit, which has already been excavated outside the town, about 1000 kilometres north-west of Brisbane.
Cr Chandler said he was confident the council would get approval to access a bore to get water to fill the lake with 400 megalitres of water – despite the region enduring its eighth year of drought.
“We are so fortunate here – unlike Warwick and those places, we are so fortunate to be sitting on the artesian basin,” Cr Chandler told the ABC.
“We found a disused bore that has a licence for 400 megs, so we take that 400 megalitres and take that to fill this.
“It will take about five months to fill it.”
The water permit process with the Queensland government is ongoing but Cr Chandler said flows could be running into the reservoir by March.
But opponents are horrified by the council plan to tap critical water from the Great Artesian Basin for recreational purposes.
Former mayoral candidate Sharon Broughton said most Barcaldine residents were against the scheme.
“There has been a lot of talk amongst the graziers,” she said.
“To them, water is their absolute lifeblood.”
The excavated site, which will eventually feature a 2.4-kilometre ski circuit, is on traditional land. Custodian Suzanne Thompson described the project as “irresponsible”.
“There’s no jobs, so I’m a bit confused about the rationale around ‘let’s put a waterski park in’,” she said.
“It is probably the most irresponsible thing we could actually do right now in the current climate, especially out here.
“Water is one of the most precious things that we have as human beings to survive, to grow food.”
Researchers say the amount of water required to fill the lake would not be an issue to the massive underwater basin, which sits under about 22 per cent of Australia’s landmass.
“There’s no question there’s enough water, there’s an absolutely vast volume of water,” University of Queensland scientist Associate Professor Rod Fensham said.
However, evaporation – leading to water loss – might be an issue, he said.
Cr Chandler said the project, which has already cost $2.5 million in two years, will be a win for the community – and put it on the map.
“It’s so strategically placed,” he said.
“People will be able to hop on their push bikes, pack a half-dozen coldies, bread butter and sausages, have a barbecue dinner and then ride their pushies home.”
He said the project was not unprecedented. About 500 kilometres north of Barcaldine, near Hughendon, is Fred Tritton Lake. It was built in 2003 to create a water sport recreational area, using water pumped from the Flinders River.