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The Queensland Government will undertake a $3 million in-depth water assessment to investigate long-term water supply options and create regional jobs for communities in the Southern and Darling Downs regions.

Queensland Minister for Regional Development and Water, Glenn Butcher, said Queensland’s economic strategy for its post-COVID-19 recovery included water security and jobs, particularly in Queensland’s regions.

“The Southern and Darling Downs are the food bowl of our south, and are ripe for further development with improved long-term water supply and security,” Mr Butcher said.

“Investing in an assessment that looks at water infrastructure opportunities is the first step to giving our farmers in the south-west the water security they need to invest and grow their businesses and jobs.

“The Southern and Darling Downs water assessment will look at the financial, economic and social viability of a range of options in the region.

“Like a large part of the state, the Southern and Darling Downs region is also seeing an unprecedented drought, and this study will look at all opportunities to bring improved water security to the region, including bringing water from outside the region.

“It complements the government’s short-to-medium-term water initiatives and recognises that bringing additional water to the region is a necessity for growth in jobs and output.

“We’ll be formally reaching out to local stakeholders, including the region’s councils and the Darling Downs and Border Water Alliance, to be involved with the Southern and Darling Downs Regional Water Assessment in the near future.

“We’re going out with a bold brief to bring water supply solutions for these regions which will not only help them survive, but thrive.”

Toowoomba Region Mayor, Paul Antonio, welcomed the State Government’s commitment to include the Darling Downs (including the Southern Downs area) as one of three regional water assessment projects.

“The Toowoomba region will gladly collaborate where possible to determine the best options for our long-term water security,” Mayor Antonio said.

“I know the fellow members of the newly formed Southern Queensland Inland and New South Wales Border Regional Water Alliance (SQINB-RWA) will welcome the news and I would anticipate that the new group’s chair also will be involved in the study in some fashion.

“Improved water security is imperative for our growing region and the wider member councils if we are to fully leverage the opportunities for growth and economic activity that are slated for this area, particularly from private sector investors.

“I’m positive that we can work with the State Government to clearly define the need for urgent action to address our situation, especially regarding projects that can identify net economic benefits for Queensland.

“As one of the most productive agricultural areas in Australia, and given our broad economic base, we have delivered consistent economic growth across the past decade and are planning for sustained growth into the future.

“Viable water supply options will ensure we can achieve these goals and keep contributing to the state and national economies.”

Mr Butcher said, due to the state’s strong health response to COVID-19, the next step was to push ahead and deliver on Queensland’s plan for economic recovery – including water infrastructure.

“When it comes to water security, we have a proven track record and a plan for the future,” Mr Butcher said.

“Since 2017 we’ve committed $1.2 billion to water infrastructure across this state, supporting almost 2,300 jobs in regional Queensland.

“Investment in water infrastructure is a high priority and once again the Queensland Government is getting on with the job of building water infrastructure to help our state bounce back from this pandemic stronger than ever.”

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