INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDED: Anthony Staatz, Koala Farms, Lake Clarendon.
INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDED: Anthony Staatz, Koala Farms, Lake Clarendon. ALI KUCHEL

Water security is vital for future of local producers

THE LOCKYER Valley could risk losing a large proportion of fresh produce growers if a reliable water source is not secured.

With water allocations looming, Gatton lettuce grower Anthony Staatz, of Koala Farms, believes it may be more equitable for farmers to work from regions other than the Lockyer Valley.

"If the allocations come in, we will have as significant reduction in our capacity to produce," Mr Staatz said.

"It's not good for the community, farming has been here for more than 100 years (and) it would be tragic to lose it."

Koala Farms plants about half a million lettuces each week, and uses about 5 megalitres of water a hectare to produce the crops.

Mr Staatz said allocations were originally proposed about 10 years ago, and ranged from as low as 0.6ML/ha to 2ML/ha, which would reduce his production by about one third.

"If the government assesses the aquifer and deems it is not sustainable, the option is to put water into the Lockyer Valley through the Wivenhoe Pipeline scheme," he said.

The threat of water allocations has producers and irrigators calling on the Federal Government to help complete the final stage of the business case to pipe water from Wivenhoe Dam into the region.

Mr Staatz said if piped water was secured, it would be a value add for the growers and enable them to change their business models.

"Water is the biggest limiting factor for growers in the Lockyer Valley, and it is variable," he said.

Irrigators are calling on Federal Member for Wright Scott Buchholz for funding to make the business case a reality.

Lockyer Water Users Forum spokesperson Gordon Van der Est said the pre-feasability study and socio-economic studies indicated huge potential for the region.

A pre-feasibility study completed earlier this year, and funded by Lockyer Valley Regional Council identified ways to bring sustainable sources of water to the region, which included water from the Western Corridor recycled water pipeline.

Piping water would provide an additional 1400 on-farm jobs, 2300 downstream jobs and $640 million in gross value of agriculture production for the local community.

Mr Van der Est estimated the business case would cost about $1.4m, and Federal Government help would go a long way.

Mr Buchholz said a final business case into delivering water to the region was important.

"I understand exactly how important water security is to the Lockyer Valley and surrounding regions," he said.

"I am in regular consultation with the water users group and continue to highlight this need to the Deputy Prime Minister."

Exporting relies on irrigation

DESPITE the Federal Government providing a $51.3 million funding boost to build global export markets, Anthony Staatz believes water reliability would limit Lockyer Valley producers' abilities.

Mr Staatz said export was possible, if there was an adequate water supply, and would be a "big factor" in growers building a production business in the Lockyer Valley.

"Where we become uncompetitive on a national supply level is our consistency of supply," he said.

Mr Staatz said businesses looking to export would be required to invest in infrastructure, packing sheds and container loading facilities, which could be a burden if there was not a regular production cycle.

"If we go into another drought and in two years there is no production, it's very hard to fund that investment into the required facilities," he said.

"It's just another negative for the Lockyer Valley if we do not have a reliable water source."

With export a major asset for the economy Federal Member for Wright Scott Buchholz said improved export access to growers was an important next step and water security would be vital.

"More than $400 million of Federal grant money was injected into the Western Corridor Pipeline and the Queensland State Govern- ment needs to come to the party," he said.

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