TOOBEAH farmer Chris Lamey says it is essential that Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources investigates the Healthy Headwaters program to ensure the water efficiency scheme is not being abused.
The call follows a police raid on Norman Farming at Toobeah into possible fraudulent use of Commonwealth Murray-Darling Basin funds.
“We need to be sure how the Healthy Headwaters program is being administered,” Mr Lamey said.
“We do not believe the necessary checks and balances are in place.”
Mr Lamey and his father Bruce have been involved in a legal battle with Norman Farming for the past three years over flood issues they say have been caused by earthworks constructed on the boundary of the two properties.
The Lameys say while it is unclear if the earthworks are directly linked to Healthy Headwaters program, they had resulted in their adjoining farm, Coomonga, being unnecessarily flooded, costing $1.5 million in lost crops and $300,000 spent on legal fees in ongoing attempts to remove levy banks. They say a thorough investigation is required to expose related issues.
ABC reported yesterday that subpoenas had been issued as part of a long running investigation into Norman Farming and to contractors who provided services to it.
ABC TV’s Lateline program reported Norman Farming had received $25 million for eight water-saving projects designed to increase the amount of water flowing into the Murray-Darling River system.
Detective Superintendent Michael Dowie of the Queensland Major Organised Crime Squad (Rural) called on people who had first-hand knowledge on how Healthy Headwaters projects had been invoiced to come forward.
LNP opposition natural resources spokesman Andrew Cripps said while he was cautious about relying on information in media reports, he admitted to being alarmed by the apparent property raid.
"As the former Natural Resources Minister who fought long and hard to secure the best possible deal for Queensland in terms of the amount of Healthy Headwaters funding, if that program is being abused, I would be bloody furious," Mr Cripps said.
"I know other farmers and irrigators in the Queensland section of the Murray Darling Basin are using that funding to genuinely increase their water use efficiency and with allocations being bought back in various catchments, that work is critical.
"Given the police are investigating they need to do their job free of speculation, but I would condemn any fraudulent use of Healthy Headwaters funding, because there are plenty of people that could put it to better and legitimate use.
"Separately, the issue around alleged unlawful earthworks directing overland flow into storages has implications for all water entitlements holders in the Queensland section of the Murray Darling Basin, because our reputation as a responsible jurisdiction is on the line.”
Norman Farming covers a land area of 18,000ha and is currently for sale through CBRE. Expressions of interest close on November 9.
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