Townsville getting $250M Super Stadium, but running out of water

One definition of economics is that it is the study of the allocation of scarce resources to competing uses. It says each additional dollar should go to the use which provides the greatest additional benefit. As such, it looks very odd that our State and Federal Governments have funded an arguably unnecessary $250 million Super Stadium in Townsville (see Joe Branigan’s excellent guest post from last year), but the city continues to face a water supply crisis, as reported in the Townsville Bulletin this morning:

‘Developer Robert Zammit said water restrictions were holding back landscaping at the former Townsville General Hospital in North Ward and a lack of action was destroying business confidence.

“The biggest issue is the lack of water because that’s a real downer among people,” he said. “It affects people on every level from retail to property developers looking for new developments.

“When we started the old hospital development we were in water restrictions – everyone was worried but as soon as we got a big rain that was it.

“Now we’ve got the same issue again and it’s obvious no level of government is treating it with the respect it deserves.”

Mr Zammit said the city could not go forward without a solution to the water crisis.

“Until we get the rain it doesn’t matter what happens with mines, the lift in sugar prices or the arrival of troops from Singapore,” he said. “What’s keeping Townsville down? It’s the confidence and that’s linked to water supply.”’

It is a ridiculous distortion of priorities and a huge public policy failure to fund a football stadium prior to sorting out Townsville’s water crisis, whether via water supply augmentation (e.g. Haughton pipeline duplication) or demand management measures. In part, the prioritisation of the Super Stadium reflects the political clout of the NRL, which is a major financial beneficiary of the new Townsville Super Stadium, and until recently had former Queensland Treasurer Andrew Fraser as a senior executive.

Townsville residents suspect their water crisis is not being taken seriously by politicians in Brisbane and Canberra. Perhaps it is time for a North Queensland regional government that would provide greater decision making power, responsibility and accountability to local people. Given the severity of the water crisis in Townsville, I suspect that they would prioritise water over footy.

In other news, the economic outlook in North Queensland’s other major city, Cairns, is looking promising, according to this report in Tropic Now:

38 reasons to get excited about the Cairns economy in 2017

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7 Responses to Townsville getting $250M Super Stadium, but running out of water

  1. Smokin Joe says:

    Let them drink Coca Cola!!

  2. Gavin King says:

    Great post as per usual Gene and thanks so much for mentioning our “38 reasons” listicle from TropicNow!
    We attempted to cut through the clutter and present projects and factors that were based in reality after the widespread disappointment and deflating effect of Aquis.
    We’d love to publish this Townsville piece as a guest column on TropicNow, with full attribution and links of course. Would that be possible?
    Hope you are well! Cheers, Gavin

  3. Glen says:

    Gene the water situation in Townsville is of its own making. Numerous administrations have ignored the poor performance of the Ross dam as a reliable storage and failed to expedite a solution and hoping it would rain again. From the days of the old Townsville Thuringowa Water Board the pipeline from the Haughton was included as a vital part of the supply for Townsville. At 130 megalitres a day it was ample to cover the average usage of Townsville at the time of construction. The fact is Townsvilles population and industry have exanded since then and yet the Townsville council have failed to increase the supply from the Haughton to cover the growth. Townsville Council make many millions of dollars out of the supply of water, they were assigned the assets of the old water board for nothing and have simply taken money from Townsville Water into general revenue and spent it on other things whilst neglecting to invest any back into securing extra water. Further to this is the failure of council in regards to planning, despite being in a very dry part of the country Townsville council is still approving subdivisions with 1000 sq metre blocks, just madness. By law Townsville council has a secure allocation from the Burdekin which can be increased at any time and is guaranteed an allocation before irrigation, so there is no lack of water, just a lack of planning and commitment of funding by the council who have been wasting millions on consultants about tourism and business opportunities whilst paying $1 million a year to Townsville Enterprise to produce absolutely nothing. Before the Townsville council goes asking the taxpayers of Qld and Australia for money it needs to have a long hard look at its many failings in this area and adjust its policies and priorities accordingly.

    • Jim says:

      Hi Glen

      As I understand it, Townsville has an allocation of about 110 ML in the Burdekin Falls Dam and a pipeline to run the water into the Townsville system. But TCC are generally reluctant to use the resource because of the high cost of pumping.

      Do you know if TCC are actually using the Burdekin water at the moment, or have they imposed restrictions instead? I suspect the problem might not be a lack of infrastructure, but a policy failure and an inability of TCC to recover the cost of the Burdekin water under their current tariff regime.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Thanks for the comment Glen. You are right this reflects poorly on TCC.

  4. Glen says:

    Jim they don’t start pumping until Ross dam drops below 15% in order to reduce evaporation loss and the dam is down closer to the level of old river area, where it is at its deepest. TCC pumped for a short period at the beginning of summer but ceased when the level jumped to 18% where it is roughly today. TCC should be looking at bringing a second pipeline directly through to the southern suburbs of Townsville and another treatment plant to avoid the evaporation issue and to serve the 11,000 lot subdivision that Lend Lease have just commenced 20km south of the city, but at this stage they are still looking at running it through the dam system. TCC have moved to level 3 restrictions which is essentially hand watering only , two hours a day two days a week. Estimates of power cost for pumping is $25k per day.

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