An estimated project construction cost of $4.0 billion to $5.0 billion is to be tested.
By comparison coastal desalination plants may be costing the nation $1.2bn to $5bn (single plant) or $12bn+ (multiple plants) and up to $20 million a year to run a single plant.
Income during early stages of construction may be limited but it is intended the staged development must deliver early positive outcomes in key areas of interest, both economically and environmentally.
Community economic benefits include extensive direct and indirect employment opportunities plus flow on revenue during both the construction and operations phases of the project. Approximately 14 different development sites will deliver economic enhancement broadly across the regions, during the construction phase.
Earlier scheme proposals (to be tested) predicted up to 1.0 million hectares of agriculture opportunities in North and Central Queensland alone await the supply of water.
Given preliminary studies are still to be undertaken it is too early to consider final management and running costs of the completed scheme in whole or part.
It is expected the staged construction of the project could take 5 to 7 years to complete.
Indications are all previous water schemes did not adequately address all possible returns on investment or were confined to the cost of water to farmers alone.
The proposed project is expected to minimise costs through the primary use of existing rivers as natural aqueducts and where connecting channels are required, through advances in environmental, engineering and construction excellence.
Some elements of the project may attract commercial investment in public/private partnerships and direct corporate funding of critical project related infrastructure. A staged development strategy will accommodate this.
Benefits are expected to be found in:-
– Employment and flow on expenditure in both construction and operational phases.
– New water services industries in river catchments.
– Economic restoration and growth of regional towns.
– New shire revenues alleviating the need for government grants.
– Indirect value of environmental water flow to communities.
– A reduction in maintenance costs given restored waterways.
– User pays water sales to irrigated farming, associated or other industries including
possible mining projects.
– Potable water supply to towns currently dependent on artesian supply.
– River supply to farming freeing up direct extraction from the Great Artesian Basin
– Negating or reducing the cost of drought and flood relief.
– Enhanced food production and sales revenues – Asian market up to 300million consumers.
– Reliability and certainty of production through drought and flood cycles.
– Savings in any future need for water buy-backs in the Murray Darling Basin
– Revenue generated by water amenity tourism
Benefits are not expected to be diminished by economic losses in other industries perceived to be impacted by the project, particularly as catchment communities are small and scattered remotely.
A large percentage of local enterprises are already centred around forestry and agriculture, while environmental protection of the Gulf fishing industry is an integral objective.