Georgetown's $2B agriculture development fails to meet September deadline

Under the IFED proposal, water was to be diverted from the Einasleigh and Etheridge rivers into two artificial off-stream lakes and channelled to pumping stations to supply irrigation.

Under the IFED proposal, water was to be diverted from the Einasleigh and Etheridge rivers into two artificial off-stream lakes and channelled to pumping stations to supply irrigation.

The $2 billion Integrated Food and Energy Development (IFED) project at Georgetown has come to a grinding halt.

Chairmain Keith DeLacy is blaming the state government for the project’s suspension, saying it had declined to extend the environmental approval process.

“The present approval process under the auspices of the Coordinator-General was scheduled to be completed on September 5,” he said.

“We applied for an extension on July 25 but this has been declined. This seems to leave us with no way forward.

“The irony is that we had sufficient funds committed to the project to take us through the requested approval process.”

The Etheridge Integrated Agricultural Project, cropping sugar and guar, growing and processing cattle, and aquaculture, was a declared coordinated project undergoing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process with the Coordinator-General. 

It proposed to store 2000 gigalitres of water from the Gilbert River, and reserves were being held back from release by the government until after the EIS process was completed.

According to a Department of Natural Resources and Mines spokesman, the initiative’s status as a coordinated project lapsed because IFED was unable to provide an EIS to the Coordinator-General by the September 5 deadline.

“The Memorandum of Understanding between the Queensland government and Integrated Food and Energy Developments Pty Ltd requires an EIS to be finalised before consideration can be given to assessing the project’s water needs,” he said.

“The Coordinator-General’s decision does not prevent the proponent from lodging an application to proceed with an integrated agricultural project in the future.”

He added that Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham was now considering the release of unallocated water in the Gilbert River catchment. 

Mr De Lacy gave no reason for not submitting the EIS.

However he said he and the IFED team were very disappointed with the decision, saying they had put $1 million of their own funds and three years of their lives into the project.

“The fact of life is that there are a lot more people opposed to projects like this than supporting them,” he said.

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