It is said that ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We have been told that the next big thing for our region is yet another feasibility study for the Urannah dam. That study will be the 19th attempt since 1967 to shuffle the cards and come up with a winning economic hand.
What is even more irrational is that the Federal Government paid $3 million of taxpayers’ money to have those cards reshuffled. Of course there’s a chance that this time the economic analysis may say something different to the previous 18 attempts. Maybe there’s a way to sell the water from Urannah dam to someone who’s willing to pay enough to recoup the dam’s construction and running costs. The only industry that can do that is mining.
There’s another way to look at Urannah Creek — as a functioning ecological system. Urannah Creek begins in the Eungella rainforest. Moist air, blown in from the Coral Sea, presses against the Clarke Range and rises up above Mt Dalrymple where it cools and condenses and falls on the rainforest canopy before seeping into the headwaters of the Urannah Creek. Along its course the creek flows through pristine shaded waterholes very few people have ever visited. Those waterholes are habitat for a unique turtle species discovered by Steve Irwin.
You could compare the choices we have at Urannah Creek with a similar situation in South West Tasmania. Queenstown once had a thriving economy but the mines have closed and the population has drifted away. Many of those who remained are resigned to living in poverty.
Not far away in Strahan, which was at the centre of the campaign to stop the Franklin River dam, the economy is buzzing with activity. The tour guides aren’t backward in telling visitors how stupid it would have been to dam the river that is their town’s economic lifeblood.
At Urannah we could build a sustainable economy based on ecology and unspoilt landscapes. Alternatively we could lose the river forever, so 16 mines can temporarily have access to the cleanest water around. You’d have to be mad to think that the best use we can find for Urannah Creek’s water is to wash coal.