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One of Mackay’s unique species is Irwin’s Turtle. Back in 1990 the famous naturalist Steve Irwin and his father Bob were fishing near the Bowen River when Bob spotted an unusual white headed turtle. They caught one, photographed it and returned it to the wild. Later the pair sent the photos to experts for identification. It turned out the turtle they found had never been recorded by scientists.
Irwin’s Turtle is very good at hiding from scientists. It took another three years before a second was found and a proper identification made. The scientists who described the turtle named it Elseya irwini in honour of the pair who first alerted the scientific community to its existence.
Irwin’s Turtle has a very limited range, perhaps only 25 square kilometres in total. It inhabits the Bowen River and tributaries such as Urannah Creek where the water is clean and free flowing. These turtles require well oxygenated water and sandy banks to survive.
Irwin’s Turtle has evolved in isolation for 150 million years. We have known it for less than 30 and we could wipe it out in a decade. Very little is known about Irwin’s Turtle’s life cycle or the extent of its habitat, yet we may send it to extinction by building a dam on Urannah Creek.Read more
Urannah dam has created many jobs over the years but only in the economics and engineering community. Over the past 50 years 18 studies have been undertaken into the feasibility of the dam by both government and non-government organisations. They have all concluded the same thing, the dam doesn't stack up. So we were surprised when the Federal Government floated the idea it would fund another $3 million feasibility study into the dam.
That feasibility study appears to be going nowhere. Media reports late last year indicate that the consortium that has been awarded the funding is wracked with infighting over how the money would be allocated so no work has been done. The Queensland Government has proposed that the money should be allocated to Sunwater. But when Sunwater last investigated Urannah dam it found the dam to be uneconomic.
The proposed Urannah Dam is located within the Bowen and Broken River catchments, 95km north-east of Mackay adjacent to Eungella National Park. If it went ahead it would be built on land that is currently leased by the Queensland Government to the Urannah Properties Association. It is subject to a native title claim registered by the Widi people in 2006, which covers an area of approximately 5,400 square kilometres. The dam site contains important initiation grounds among other cultural heritage values. The Widi people continue to campaign strongly to retain their native title rights over the land.
Constructing Urannah Dam has been estimated to cost between $250 and $300 million. In 2016 Mackay Conservation Group engaged an engineer, Thomas Williams, to undertake a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) of Urannah Dam. He determined that the dam would be uneconomic as it would return only $0.75 for every $1.00 invested. He found that there are cheaper ways to provide water for industrial purposes in the Galilee and Bowen Basins.Read more