Peter Beattie at his Lagoon Pocket property where he pumps water from the Mary river.
Peter Beattie at his Lagoon Pocket property where he pumps water from the Mary river. Renee Albrecht

'Dam the Mary' call

KENILWORTH irrigation farmer Shane Paulger has called for a Mary River dam - but not at Traveston Crossing and not for the city.

"We need dams in the upper Mary to provide irrigation water for farmers, so we can rebuild the hinterland economy," he said.

"There is already a dam on the Obi Obi Creek at Baroon Pocket, but that water is all taken to the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane. That's because they get a much better price selling water to city consumers than leaving it in the river for farmers."

Mr Paulger claims a shortage of irrigation water has seriously damaged his export milk production.

"That compounds off the low price of milk," he said.

"Our production is already down with the milk we send to Japan and we've seen in Victoria that their production is down 12% already.

"At our place, the grass is burned to chips where it's not irrigated.

"We've got corn we're not game to put in the ground until it rains."

"Exorbitant" electricity prices for pumping are also hitting irrigation farmers hard, he said.

And, he says, that sort of farming is an important part of the Mary basin's agricultural economy, a major employer across the Gympie region.

"The greenies," he says are standing in the way of Australia's growth.

"They'll say you can't build a dam because there's some frog that lives there."

Downstream, at Lagoon Pocket, irrigation farm owner Peter Beattie enjoys the benefits of irrigation from a Borumba Dam-fed Mary River, but even that benefit is not guaranteed forever. Borumba Dam water is slated for greater use as an urban drinking water supply for Gympie's growth.