Bradfield regional assessment and development panel

Queensland has established an independent expert 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 a modern scheme

If found to be feasible, a modernised Bradfield-like scheme could be 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 comprises 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 were 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, Professor Garnaut’s climate change experience will support the independent panel in discussions on renewable energy generation, including hydroelectricity and hydrogen production.

Dr Georgina Davis

Dr Davis is the former 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 to 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, Australian Government, Sunwater, Seqwater and others.

In February 2021, the panel moved into its assessment phase. While continuing to receive information briefings as required, the panel began consolidating and analysing data received. This phase included development of economic and other models to inform the panel’s options.

In accordance with its terms of reference (PDF, 668.0KB) the panel undertook targeted engagement with key stakeholders, including regional councils, throughout July and August 2021.

The panel has delivered its report to the Queensland Government. The work undertaken by the panel is complex and the government will give full consideration before responding. The report and government response will be made publicly available.

Last updated: 28 Mar 2022