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Mackay Conservation Group is celebrating a major victory after yesterday's announcement that Urannah Dam had been withdrawn from the environmental assessment process.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

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