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Queensland, Australia:

Wide Bay growers uncertain about the future due to water scarcity

Australia’s Wide Bay region has a diverse agricultural sector, representing 12 per cent of agricultural production in Queensland, worth more than $1.5 billion. However, local growers are facing tough growing conditions as significant rainfall stayed away from the region. People fear the region's major water source, Paradise Dam, could run out of water following the state government's decision to lower its wall by 50 per cent.

Abbotsleigh Citrus in Gin Gin employs between 30 to 50 local workers during the year. According to parent company Nutrano Produce Group general manager Josh Clementson, changes to their water allocation might see jobs leave the region. The farm has just set up an extra 18 hectares of irrigated land and is planning for another 100ha for its citrus crop.

"If you take away 50pc of our water allocation, where do we go? We've planned an expansion over three years, and we've spent a lot of money. We're now weighing up stopping future development."

Bundaberg macadamia grower Michael McMahon is pessimistic as well. He told that without decent inflows in the dam soon, the region could face historically low announced allocations. "We bought farms with two sources of water and we have access to on-farm water storage, but if these dry conditions continue we won't have enough water for our macadamia trees," McMahon said. "I have no issues with safety, no-one wants to put any lives at risk, but we would argue there was another way to fix Paradise Dam without tearing the wall down."

McMahon added that news of possible very low water allocations in July was driving local farmers to fast-track a class action.

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