An independent inquiry will be held following the release of technical reports which detail the structural and stability issues of Paradise Dam.
Queensland’s Natural Resources Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham, announced that former Supreme Court judge John Byrne AO would head a transparent, fully-independent inquiry into the dam’s structural and stability issues.
“The government has been listening to the Bundaberg community,” Dr Lynham said.
“We know they have questions, as we have questions.
“Justice Byrne’s inquiry will take public submissions and the terms of reference will be released next week.”
In the meantime, Sunwater will continue work to deal with issues detailed in the reports.
Dr Lynham said the technical reports confirmed potential stability issues with the dam in the event of an extreme weather event like the 2013 cyclone and flood.
“The reports confirm that the dam is safe now,” Dr Lynham said.
“However, they do confirm potential risk of major flooding if there is another extreme weather event like 2013 and this is why Sunwater made the decision to release water and lower Paradise Dam’s spillway by five metres.
“Sunwater has worked with the Bundaberg and North Burnett Regional Council, police and other agencies in the Local Disaster Management Group (LDMG) to ensure that emergency plans are in place to protect the community.
“The people of Bundaberg know about flooding. Their Local Disaster Management Group will have more notice than ever before and have the community well-prepared if, and when, an extreme weather event like 2013 happens again.
“The Inspector-General Emergency Management is currently conducting a review into disaster preparedness planning for the local community.
“The government has always been primarily concerned with community safety.
“Sunwater’s advice is that reducing the volume of water in the dam reduces pressure on the dam wall and creates additional time for the dam to fill in an extreme weather event, and therefore extra time for any evacuations.”
University of Newcastle Pro-Vice Chancellor, Emeritus Professor John Carter, will provide technical advice.
The technical reports published on Sunwater’s website show that there are issues with the bonds between each layer of roller-compacted concrete in the dam wall. This poses risks to the dam wall in rare, major events like the 2013 cyclone and flood. There is a need to act to lower water levels to minimise pressure on the dam wall.
Dr Lynham said work continued on reducing the dam spillway by five metres; finding alternative water supply options, especially for irrigators; and building Queensland’s detailed business case into long-term options for the dam.
The dam’s storage level has been progressively lowered over the past ten weeks and it will reach its 42 per cent target level in the coming days.
Over 96 per cent of the water released has been stored in the Ben Anderson Barrage and Ned Churchward Weir or used productively, including by Bundaberg Regional Council and irrigators.