May 23, 2023

Federal Member for Wide Bay Llew O’Brien said the State and Federal Labor Government’s secret cancellation of an $18 million grant for a water storage project in Maryborough will reduce agricultural production and turn off investment.

“We know this is the water security project for Maryborough that the Queensland State Labor Government never wanted – and now they have conspired with the Federal Albanese Labor Government to kill it off,” Mr O’Brien said.

The project, announced in April 2019, was initially delayed when the closure of the Maryborough Sugar Mill was announced in November 2020.  Subsequently Maryborough Canegrowers and Rural Funds Management worked with representatives from Sunwater to advance the proposal.

“Negotiations between all parties were proceeding up until the time of the May 2022 Federal election.  It was anticipated a contract would be in place in time for the new Federal Government’s contract execution deadline of 28 April 2023.”

“But leading up to that deadline there was a wall of silence from Sunwater, and enquiries from my office to the Government were not responded to,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Then today, in Senate Estimates, my suspicions that the deal had been secretly killed off were confirmed, when Senator Bridget McKenzie asked the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Communication, Regional Development and the Arts if a contract for the project was executed.”

In response, the Department said on 24 March 2023 it received advice from Sunwater that it would not proceed with the project as Sunwater was unable to meet contract and construction deadlines.

“Such was the lack of interest by the State Labor Government in this project that it may not have even sought extensions to those deadlines,” Mr O’Brien said. 

“It wrapped the project’s cancellation up in secrecy by not telling key stakeholders like Maryborough Canegrowers it had axed contract negotiations.”

Water supply is a key issue for Maryborough and the Fraser Coast, and this project was specifically designed to provide water security to farmers in times of drought.

“We all know what drought looks like in Maryborough and the Fraser Coast and the devastating impact it has on farmers, jobs, and the local economy.”

“People in Maryborough have every right to be disappointed that Bruce Saunders, after campaigning on water security, allowed his Labor State Government to conspire with his Labor mates in Canberra to kill off this vital project for Maryborough,” Mr O’Brien said.

On 13 March 2017 the Member for Maryborough Bruce Saunders called on the Federal Government to invest in water storage in Maryborough.

“If we don’t get the water, we won’t get the biofuels. It’s crucial the federal government come to party with it and help us finance it,” Mr Saunders said at the time.

Then in 2019, after Mr O’Brien announced the $18 million water storage project, Mr Saunders said water was still a priority, saying he’d raised the issue with Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk during a visit.

“Water storage is something I really want,” Mr Saunders said in 2019.

“But now we all know when a firm offer of $18 million for water was on the table for Maryborough, the Albanese and Palaszczuk Labor Governments just turn off the tap and walk away.”

Mr O’Brien said he is concerned what other Labor cuts might be in line for Wide Bay.

“With this project axed and the Tiaro bypass, Bridges Renewal Program, Roads to Recovery Program, Black Spot Program and Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program all pushed out to reviews, it shows Labor has no plan for regional Australia.”


In the spirit of Australia, I acknowledge all citizens who contribute to making our nation the greatest on earth.

I acknowledge our defence force personnel, past, present, and emerging, for their service to our nation, and particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of Australia.

I also acknowledge the Australian taxpayers who, through their hard work, pay for the infrastructure, health, education, and emergency services that keep our proud nation healthy, safe, and prosperous.