Mackay Conservation Group’s former coordinator, Ian Sutton, undertook a biological assessment of the Urannah Creek west of Mackay in 2004. He found a hidden valley in almost pristine condition. Ian described a valley without weeds that provided habitat in the form of Bluegum forest and endangered Black Ironbox, with stands on Ironbark on its slopes.
Urannah Creek is the most permanent river in the Burdekin system and supports healthy fish and turtle populations.
Although Urannah is close to several population centres, the topography and the lack of good road access makes it a very remote place. During the dry season four wheel drive vehicles are necessary to access the creek. In wet season the area virtually impassable. The valley is walled in by the ranges on all sides, except for a gap near Mt Cauley where the Broken River exits on its journey westward.
These physical barriers and the joint boundary with Eungella National Park to the south east, plus the lack of any past ‘pasture improvements’ render the area an isolated ‘island’ of virtually pristine natural heritage. Ian described the valley as a secure, almost unique example of pre-European landscape of the area. Those values haven’t changed since 2004. This unique and important area west of the Eungella rainforest is once again under threat, with plans of a massive dam, industrial scale irrigated agriculture and a questionable hydroelectric scheme.
The proposed Urannah Dam is located in the upper Broken River Valley southeast of Collinsville and approximately 80 km west of Mackay in Central Queensland Another $2.9 billion pipe-dream.
After five decades of reports and surveys (none of them have resulted in a compelling case for this dam to go ahead), is once again being pushed (and supported) by all levels of Governments.
It is home to the Irwin’s Turtle, first discovered by famed naturalists Steve Irwin and his father Bob in 1990, and is considered by the Queensland Government as a high priority species. This freshwater turtle has its main habitat in the Broken-Bowen River system which includes the proposed dam catchment, and has an estimated range of only 25 square kilometres.
Habitat loss is identified as a key threat to this species. A dam on Urannah Creek will flood the sandy riverbanks that Irwin's Turtle needs to lay its eggs. It requires clear, free flowing streams and they will disappear if a dam is built. If proposed projects like the Urannah Dam are to go ahead it will directly affect the last remaining population stronghold of the turtle and will very likely endanger the survival of this ancient species.
It is questionable if there is the need for another new dam in the region, when the Burdekin Falls Dam, Queensland’s largest dam, has 50,000 megalitres of unallocated water and the Queensland Government is currently investigating the feasibility of raising the height of that dam by two metres. Burdekin Falls Dam is in the same catchment as the proposed Urannah dam.
The Queensland Government has a track record of dams that cost the public a lot of money, which later turned out to be economic disasters, for example, the Paradise Dam at Bundaberg has been an unqualified failure.
After the Queensland government declared the “Urannah Water Scheme” a coordinated project, earlier this year, they are now preparing the Terms of Reference for the Environmental Impact Assessment. We want the coordinated project process for Urannah Dam is full and comprehensive. It must consider an option for no dam, as well as other options such as eco-tourism. This must be done with the full consent of traditional owners
Mackay Conservation Group will continue to be following the developments and work hard to stop this destructive projects whose real motive is to give more water for the coal mining industry.
You can help protect Urannah by signing the petition to the Queensland Premier.