“This is God’s country” as Vic Pennisi said, “where we turn water into wine”. If that is the case, why can’t we as a community rise up in faith and speak to the rock with our staff in hand and let it gush forth water? Yes, I’m serious. Stanthorpe people are a resilient bunch who have survived drought, floods, and even stood against the giant Coca-Cola and won. With a Council seemingly focused upon investing in Warwick, why can’t we rise to the ocassion once again? The history of the dam might give us some clues…

A special meeting of Stanthorpe Shire Council was held on Tuesday 3 February 1948 to consider the water supply requirements for 3,000 people in Stanthorpe, which was funded by Government assistance of £133,000 repaid over 40 years. In normal business terms, if per say you finance a car over four years, once the term of the loan has been repaid, you reassess the asset to see whether it is time to turn it over and buy a new car, and trade the old one in. The same is the case with large assets in big business. When the loan is repaid, you reassess whether the water supply requirements of the town have grown, and whether the current dam is meeting the need in wet and drought conditions. If it doesn’t meet the need, you begin planning to extend the dam wall, build a new dam, sink bores for alternate water supply in wet or drought conditions. This is part of strategic thinking for any CEO or business manager at any level.

Therefore, by 1988 the Stanthorpe Shire Council should have begun thinking about an alternate water source. In fact, I know in 1999 and 2000 Tom Knobel, the Economic Development Manager of Stanthorpe Shire Council, was in discussions with Councillors, growers, State Development about Emu Swamp Dam around that time. He was looking at a range of water options for the region. The Stanthorpe Shire Council were forward thinking strategists in many aspects for the benefit of the region. Then, Peter Beattie buggered that up when he amalgamated Stanthorpe with Warwick, and we ended up with Rod Ferguson as CEO – the compulsive spender who spent all of Stanthorpe’s $15.5M in cash assets in no time at all. Along came David Keenan in 2015 as CEO, and Council decided to not proceed with Emu Swamp Dam by 2019. Council stated in the “SDRC  Management Review” regarding de-amalgamation:

Stanthorpe Shire Council and SDRC have expended over $5 million on studies and land purchases. SDRC has resolved not to proceed with the Dam as the business case is not financially viable and Council does not have the level of funds to invest in the project regardless. There is no allocation of 450 ML high security urban water at no cost for the residents of Stanthorpe. The project will not augment the urban water supply to Stanthorpe.[1]

As they “resolved not to proceed with the Dam”, Dan Hunt Chairman of Granite Belt Irrigation Project has written to Council inviting them to participate by choosing one of the three options summarized as below:

  1. Council access water from Emu Swamp Dam for “emergency supply” only, with no contribution to the development costs, but they pay for any costs accessing the water (pipes to the dam);
  2. Council participate as a customer and investor and be able to use the water allocation in the best interests of the community and Council;
  3. Do not participate in the project.[2]

They have made an offer despite Council standing against the project, yet in the Council’s Water Contingency Plan in the same Council meeting of 28 August 2019, they stated Council support the establishment of Emu Swamp Dam “as an irrigation project”, therefore it seems they have already made their decision. Is this a strategic decision for Stanthorpe water security? In my humble opinion, NO! Instead their long term plan includes sourcing water from the Clarence River, Toowoomba, Western Downs, and Tenterfield at a huge fee of trucking it in… all at our expense.

Is there no decent strategy for water on the Granite Belt? I hear of a lot about drilling of bores in and around Yangan and Killarney in the Warwick region, but why not Stanthorpe? It seems to me that the Council have been investing significantly in Warwick and not so much in Stanthorpe. Could this be why the de-amalgamation split figures didn’t add up? When Stanthorpe is the region that is just about out of water, why would they drill in Warwick and then plan to cart water by truck all the way to Stanthorpe? It seems the most absurd management decision to me. Why not drill in Stanthorpe? Do they not know that Storm King Dam is the land of underground water? Do they not know that Thulimbah means “place of water”? A water diviner recently said to me, “You won’t find water on the plains, you’ll find it on the mountain tops”. Why? It’s a biblical principle! Where are they drilling? In the flats of Yangan and Killarney…

We have everything we need right here to save Stanthorpe. We just a decent leader like Vic Pennisi to stand up and lead the way for the Granite Belt, because clearly the Council have lost their way. This should have been done years ago, but let’s put it right now. Get the bulldozers in, get the drilling rigs in, and rescue our own town! Make Stanthorpe great again. This is God’s country! If we can turn water into wine, then why can’t we speak to the rock and it pour forth water? Yes, obviously we need a drilling rig. I’m not stupid. I’m saying, anything is possible for those who believe.


© 2019 inclusive Dr Peter D Matthews. All rights reserved. This paper may be freely used for academic purposes, subject to citing Dr Peter D Matthews as the author. More information is also available on my website at www.petermatthews.com.au, or you can like my Facebook page to keep abreast of any updated material I find. My academia profile is also available here.

[1] SDRC (2019), SDRC Management Review of the “A New Granite Belt Council A proposal to separate from the Southern Downs Regional Council”, February 2019, p12.

[2] SDRC (2019), Agenda for Council Meeting 28 August 2019, page 29.  https://southerndowns.infocouncil.biz/Open/2019/08/CO_28082019_AGN_427_AT.PDF