Growers urge minister meeting over ‘environmental disaster’
MACKAY growers locked in a 10-year battle with SunWater for compensation over the destruction of their farmland have urged Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham to meet them face-to-face to view the damage first hand.
The "environmental disaster" on Mark and Diana Barfield's property, allegedly caused by salinity from excessive leaking and pressure on the water table by Kinchant Dam near North Eton, was thrust back in the spotlight last week.
Shadow Natural Resources Minister Dale Last spoke about the Barfield's plight during private members' statements in Queensland parliament last week.
In July, the Daily Mercury reported the Barfields had experienced ongoing and increasing losses in cane production in 20 hectares of their paddocks.
The Barfields claim their "disheartening" battle with SunWater had left them $150,000 out of pocket and with five years of lost production.
It was reported the growers had invested their own funds to engage independent experts, the Australasian Groundwater and Environmental Consultants, to provide a major report on the likely cause of the salt intrusion.
The Barfields said that report found Kinchant Dam was the cause of the losses.
Mr Barfield said SunWater was building large drainage works on its own land near the property to address the issue, but claimed the company had not properly consulted with him on their plans to remedy the situation or take any responsibility for the damage on his property.
"Why doesn't the SunWater CEO or the Minister himself meet with me and tell me how it's going to work?" Mr Barfield said.
"If they're not to blame, why are they going to spend a quarter of a million dollars on drainage? They won't show us the long-term plan - they won't include us."
In parliament, Mr Last said the Barfield's land was now "virtually worthless" and called on Dr Lynham to give them "a solution, not a legal battle". "Ten years of damage to the Barfield's property and the bushland surrounding the dam is too much and the minister must act," he said.
SunWater was contacted for comment but declined to respond.
In a statement, Dr Lynham said SunWater had actively engaged with the Barfields to resolve the issue, however they had been unable to come to an agreed position.
"As the matter pertains to a potential legal dispute between the Barfields and SunWater, I am unable to comment further," he said.