Bradfield regional assessment and development panel
Unlocking more water in northern and western Queensland will help drive the economic growth and development needed to secure a prosperous future for those regions.
To identify opportunities for this growth, Queensland has established an independent panel to investigate the viability of a modern Bradfield-like scheme.
History of the Bradfield Scheme
In 1938, prominent engineer Sir John Bradfield proposed a scheme to capture the plentiful water of tropical North Queensland and divert it west across the Great Dividing Range to open vast new swathes of the state for irrigation.
Dr Bradfield’s original concept also envisaged hydroelectric power generated to pump water.
Potential benefits of the scheme
This initiative brings with it the potential for:
- thousands of construction and agricultural jobs
- millions of dollars worth of new irrigation opportunities
- renewable energy generation through hydroelectric power
- a substantial boost to regional economies.
If found to be feasible, a modernised Bradfield-like scheme would be one of the largest nation-building projects in Queensland’s history and underpin a potential revolution for our state’s agricultural industry and renewable energy generation.
Terms of reference
The panel will focus on projects to divert flows from the Wet Tropics to the Burdekin, across the Great Dividing Range to Queensland’s western regions.
The independent panel’s terms of reference (PDF, 668.0KB) detail key themes to be addressed in the final recommendations to government. These include:
- Theme 1: Analysis of the Bradfield Scheme to date
- Theme 2: Economic benefits to regional communities and agricultural production
- Theme 3: Analysis of the project area and its current infrastructure
- Theme 4: Identified opportunities leveraging current infrastructure within the project area
- Theme 5: New opportunities within the project area
- Theme 6: Neighbouring opportunities outside of the project area.
Independent panel members
The panel is comprised of experts who have been appointed to analyse the financial, economic, environmental, social, cultural and technical viability of the Bradfield Scheme concepts and provide their recommendations to government.
The expertise of the independent panel will give the Queensland Government a clear direction on how to deliver water security and economic opportunity for regional Queensland.
Chair: Professor Ross Garnaut
Professor Garnaut is currently a Professorial Research Fellow in Economics, Faculty of Business and Economics, The University of Melbourne; Chairman of Sunshot Energy Pty Ltd; and Non-executive Director of ZEN Energy Pty Ltd.
He has had a wide-ranging career including as Ambassador to China and Chairman of Lihir Gold Ltd when its headquarters was in Brisbane and it had the highest market capitalisation of Queensland-based companies. He is well known for his Climate Change Review, commissioned for the Australian, state and territory governments (2007-08).
As a renowned economist, Professor Garnaut brings economic development and public finance skills to the independent panel. These skills are necessary to ensure that any concepts that are assessed have long-term economic benefits to Queensland as a whole and to regional Queensland in particular.
In addition, Mr Garnaut’s climate change experience will support the independent panel in the discussions on renewable energy generation, including hydroelectricity and hydrogen production.
Dr Georgina Davis
Dr Davis is currently the Chief Executive Officer for the Queensland Farmers’ Federation; appointed member of the Queensland Great Artesian Basin Advisory Council; and Adjunct within the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University. She has a profound knowledge of and commitment to sustainable environmental management and development.
Dr Davis’s skillset strengthens the panel’s engineering and environmental knowledge and stakeholder engagement expertise.
In addition, Dr Davis brings knowledge of the agricultural sector to the panel and has, through her work on the Great Artesian Basin Authority, an excellent understanding of the water management issues facing local communities, industries and environments that rely on basin water. Dr Davis’s knowledge of the Great Artesian Basin directly links to the geographic areas that the panel will be focusing on, particularly the Wet Tropics and the Queensland Murray-Darling Basin.
Professor Allan Dale
Professor Dale is Professor of Tropical Regional Development at The Cairns Institute, James Cook University, and Chief Scientist for the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia.
He is an expert in environmental impact assessment, strategic planning and economic development and also has extensive research and policy experience in governance systems and integrated natural resource management.
Professor Dale will support the independent panel’s assessment of potential project concepts in the context of Northern Australian regional economic development; governance of the Great Barrier Reef; and recognition of the importance of water resources to Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
As a Far North Queensland local, Professor Dale has strong connections to the community, as well as longstanding working relationships with Traditional Owner groups throughout Northern Australia. Professor Dale brings a formidable blend of academic skills, on-ground experience and authentic ties to community.
Work of the Panel
The Panel has met regularly since its establishment in September 2020. The initial meetings (September 2020 – January 2021) were part of the Panel’s information gathering phase. These early meetings included briefings on topics relating to the Panel’s themes. Presentations have been given by Queensland Government, Commonwealth Government, Sunwater, and Seqwater and others.
From February 2021, the Panel moves into its assessment phase. While information briefings continue as required, the Panel is beginning to consolidate and analyse the data they have received to date. This phase includes development of economic and other models to inform the Panel’s options.
In accordance with its terms of reference (PDF, 668.0KB) they will undertake targeted engagement with key stakeholders, including regional councils, in this assessment phase.
Last updated: 24 Mar 2021