LOW, NOT DRY: Local business owner John Walsh wants to reassure tourists Fairbairn Dam is open for business.
LOW, NOT DRY: Local business owner John Walsh wants to reassure tourists Fairbairn Dam is open for business. Sophie Letitia

Business as normal

A LOCAL caravan park owner is concerned that negative publicity over declining water levels at Fairbairn Dam are affecting his business, leading to cancellations which have already cost him "well over” $200,000.

Lake Maraboon Holiday Village owner John Walsh said this week he was currently receiving 10 cancellations a day.

"It's just getting ridiculous. We've probably lost, due to the drought and cancellations over the last two months, well over $200,000.”

He said "there's so much negativity around town” in relation to the dam and its water levels.

Mr Walsh, who runs the caravan park with his wife Cathy and daughters Melanie, 27, and Emma, 24, said Fairbairn Dam had more water than other dams including Lake Leslie, Callide Dam, Kinchant Dam and Cania Dam.

He said the ski area of the dam was at eight to 11 metres, and there were no safety issues.

"We're still fishing, boating and skiing - everything is as normal.”

He said he was also worried about 'fish kill' because of the amount of water being released from the dam for primary producers and businesses in the region and he was concerned about SunWater's management of water levels.

"I feel if we let any more water out we'll have a massive fish kill.

"That will ruin the lake and it would never recover.

"It will be an environmental disaster.”

Mr Walsh said Fairbairn Dam was a popular attraction for locals and tourists, and he wanted to reassure visitors "we're open for business”.

"It's something the locals enjoy and it's the only thing the locals have to enjoy. We like to go somewhere and have a swim, have a ski, a picnic, a barbecue and enjoy it.”

Mr Walsh, who's not predicting a lucrative peak season from Easter to September, said he believed SunWater "could do more” to improve facilities including providing "a nice sandy beach” and a new boat ramp.

A spokesperson for SunWater said this week that dam levels, as of Wednesday, were 12.62 per cent which is 0.82 per cent higher than the lowest recorded capacity of 11.8 per cent in December 2006.

The spokesperson said SunWater understood the importance of Fairbairn Dam (Lake Maraboon) for recreation and tourism, and they provided and maintained basic public recreation amenities near the Lake Maraboon Holiday Village including clean toilets, bins, barbecues and picnic tables.

The spokesperson said the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) was the lead agency for upgrading boat ramps, but SunWater would be "open” to working with TMR and council to look at improving recreational facilities.

They said the dam was an "integral” part of the local economy, providing water to customers for irrigation, urban and industry usage.

"Water in Fairbairn Dam is owned and paid for by those customers, and released by SunWater through channel outlets when an order is placed as per the Resource Operations Plans (ROP) for the Nogoa Mackenzie Water Supply Scheme.

"Sunwater also makes scheduled water releases for environmental flow purposes to maintain the health of the downstream waterway. These releases are based on extensive research and are undertaken in line with the scheme's ROP rules.”

Denis Kiely, a cotton farmer 6km east of Emerald, said the two per cent water allocation he received from SunWater about a month ago would keep his lawns and animals alive.

"I was really stuck before they gave us the allocation. We haven't irrigated since mid-December.”

Mr Kiely irrigates and pumps the water back into his house dam so that all of his water is recycled.

"No water goes off our farm - but we've had no water. The two per cent is 70 megalitres, but I can't waste it. That might have to last me a long time - until it rains. I've got to be so careful with that water.”

Mr Kiely said conditions now were "as dry as it's ever been”.

"We're only just maintaining things now. I've been here for 31 years and I've never seen it so dry.

"We haven't got water to put into our dams. They've just died - they've been dry for months.”

Mr Kiely said the water would need to be "a lot” lower for a fish kill and he believed SunWater was managing dam levels well.