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Urannah Dam cancellation is a win for nature and the economy

Media Release

16 December 2022

Mackay Conservation Group is celebrating a major victory after yesterday's announcement that Urannah Dam had been withdrawn from the environmental assessment process.  

The cancelled dam would have drowned large parts of the nationally listed wetlands at Urannah and Massey Creeks.

If the dam had proceeded, significant habitat for the Irwin's Turtle would also have been destroyed, along with irreplaceable vegetation such as the threatened Black Ironbox. 

The Urannah Dam was first proposed in the 1950s but it has never been shown to make economic sense despite many feasibility studies. The recent Detailed Business Case produced by Bowen River Utilities showed that the dam would have been a loss-making project. 

The dam's proponents planned to sell a large part of its water to the coal mining industry in Central Queensland. In 2012 the Connors River dam was cancelled due to a lack of interest in the water from coal companies.

The dam would have also enabled the opening up of new agricultural land upstream from the Great Barrier Reef.

The recent UN World Heritage monitoring mission to the Great Barrier Reef singled out the dam for criticism. The report's authors said the dam would have significant negative effects on reef water quality and called the project "preposterous".

Mackay Conservation Group coordinator, Peter McCallum, said that the group welcomed the decision to cancel the project. 

"This dam never made sense from an environmental, economic or cultural perspective," Mr McCallum said.

"The dam's negative economic return would most probably have led to its owners abandoning it in future, leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill."

"Even worse, we would have lost the best examples of pre-European river systems in Central Queensland."

"The Irwin's Turtle, discovered by Steve and Bob Irwin in 1990, would have been pushed towards extinction. The dam would have also reduced the habitat of many other threatened species."

"Throughout the campaign to protect Urannah, Mackay Conservation Group has been strongly encouraged by the knowledge that the traditional owners, the Widi and Birrah peoples, were steadfastly opposed to the dam. We knew we were on the right side of history."

"The former federal governments, led by Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison handed out tens of millions in taxpayers funds to facilitate their Urannah Dam fantasy. Now all that money has gone down the drain. The only beneficiaries are the people who were paid to produce the plans for a dam that made no sense."

"Our next step will be to ensure no future government ever proposes to dam Urannah and Massey Creeks ever again. That will require a lot more work but we are up for the challenge."


Contact Peter McCallum 0402966560

Photos of Urannah Creek can be found at Please acknowledge the photographer, Jeff Tan.

MCG Slams Landry on Urannah

In an opinion piece in CQToday, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry said that the privately owned Urannah Dam west of Mackay “is ready to go”. That statement is not supported by the facts. 

The current proposal to build a dam on the Broken River downstream from Urannah Creek has not been approved by the federal or Queensland governments. 

In fact, according to the Queensland Coordinator General’s website, the private company proposing Urannah Dam is still preparing a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). 

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Splashing money around for a dam

man holding a jar of cash I wonder whether there are people reading this who have business ideas that they aren’t sure will return a profit. You’re not alone. However, some businesses seem to find it easy to get a helping hand from government to do the work that should be their own responsibility.

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LNP Urannah deal questioned

ABC News reporter, Mark Willacy, has been investigating the method by which a $3 million grant was made to a Brisbane company to undertake a feasibility study into a dam at Urannah Creek west of Mackay.

Earlier this year MCG engaged an engineer to undertake a review of the previous 18 studies into the possibility of constructing this dam. The review found that non of the previous studies found that the project would generate an economic return.

You can read our full report at:

Urannah Dam will waste taxpayers money

Urannah_landscapes-25_copy.jpegMackay Conservation Group released a report last week which shows that tens of millions of taxpayer’s dollars will be wasted if the proposed Urannah Dam west of Mackay goes ahead

The report is a review of 17 previous studies into the dam dating back to the 1960s, none of which have provided sufficient evidence to justify a new dam, yet the federal government has recently committed $3 million to an 18th feasibility study of the Urannah Dam proposal.

The report, An Economic Analysis Of The Urannah Dam Project, found that it is most likely that for every $1 spent on the dam, only 75 cents of economic benefit would be returned. Even the most optimistic scenario from previous studies shows that the Urannah Dam would barely break even.

The key findings of the report are:

  • The Urannah dam is a more expensive option to deliver water for irrigation, the Galilee basin, and for the Bowen region;
  • The Urannah dam is a cheaper option to supply water to the Bowen basin, however, there does not appear to be enough additional demand for water supply to warrant construction of another water source in the near future;
  • The Burdekin Falls Dam costs $11.5M per annum less than the proposed Urannah dam at delivering the same economic outcome;
  • The Urannah dam provides a return of $0.75 for every dollar invested assuming full consumption of water by agriculture and mining.
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Urannah Dam economic analysis

Download a copy of the report "An Economic Analysis Of The Urannah Dam Project" here: 

Urannah Dam economic analysis


Urannah Dam is for mining not agriculture

Irwin_Turtle_2.jpgUrannah Dam has been in the news a lot over the past year. Politicians have been talking up the proposal as a potential source of new water for agricultural land around Bowen. However, there are serious questions about whether farmers will ever see a drop of any water from this dam.

The Urannah Creek west of Eungella range is a beautiful place that has considerable environmental values. Its water flows into the Broken River and then into the Burdekin.It is home to the Irwin’s Turtle a unique species that was discovered in 1990 by Steve Irwin’s father Bob. 

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Urannah Dam will cost you money

For more than a decade Mackay Conservation Group has been voicing concerns about the proposed Urannah Dam that will flood some of the few remaining pristine river systems in Central Queensland. This dam was first put forward way back in the 1960s. An economic analysis back then found that the dam didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t.

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Dawson needs an MP who listens

Some people in the conservation movement will miss George Christensen when he leaves parliament and passes into political oblivion. His unique ability to be ineffective has meant that some of our region’s most environmentally damaging projects have not gone ahead.

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Media Release: Irwin's Turtle fundraiser exceeds expectations

Media Release

22 March 2021


  • Donors commit $29,000 to protect our rivers systems
  • Urannah Dam threatens a wetland of national significance that is home to 30 rare and threatened species.
  • Dam will return just 26 cents in benefits for every dollar it costs


The Swim For Our Rivers fundraising event held last Saturday raised a total of nearly $29,000 for campaigns to protect Irwin's Turtle and the Burdekin River system.

Mackay Conservation Group and North Queensland Conservation Council held simultaneous swim events in Mackay and Townsville on the weekend.

"We were really pleased with the level of support we received from our communities," said Peter McCallum, Mackay Conservation Group coordinator.

"235 individual donors contributed $120 each on average."

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