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Chaos and Controversy: The Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro Project Sparks Heated Debate

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

The world's largest hydro project, the Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro, has stirred up more than just energy; it's fanning the flames of heated opposition and raising eyebrows over its environmental implications. As details of the project unfold, concerns have emerged, prompting a fiery clash between supporters and critics at a recent public meeting held by the Mackay Conservation Group.

Mick de Brenni's missteps the controversial Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro Project
Mick de Brenni's missteps the controversial Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro Project

A Volatile Public Meeting


A public meeting held by the Mackay Conservation Group on the 9th of August descended into turmoil as opposition voices challenged the assertive stance of Queensland's Energy Minister, Mick de Brenni, and statements made by Queensland Hydro. This colossal 5GW scheme, featuring upper and lower reservoirs, has cast a cloud of uncertainty over its feasibility, environmental impact, and local support.


At the heart of the clash is the minister's declaration that the project enjoys widespread local support, despite vocal opposition and environmental concerns. Mirani MP Stephen Andrew joined the fray from Canberra via Zoom, criticising the government's eagerness to proceed without having crucial environmental approvals in place.


Unanswered Questions and Environmental Apprehensions


The meeting unveiled a range of issues surrounding the project, leading to fiery exchanges and accusations. Critics questioned the decision to commence drilling works while environmental approvals remained pending. Peter Rosier, a member of the project's stakeholder reference group and the Mackay Conservation Group, found himself at the center of the storm, facing pointed inquiries about environmental implications, including references to "dead platypus" potentially being pumped through the hydro system.


Condamine MP Pat Weir drew attention to the rhetoric employed by the Energy Minister, hinting at a presumption of inevitability, where environmental concerns might be brushed aside in the pursuit of the project's realisation. The delicate balance between energy demand and environmental stewardship remains at the forefront of the debate.


Road Ahead: Transparency, Approvals, and Environmental Impact


Tender documents reveal that the government aims to secure an environmental impact statement approval by July 2026. Should the project receive the green light, construction on the main works is projected to commence by September 2027. Yet, critics and skeptics, echoing through the tumultuous meeting, raise pertinent questions about the project's true viability, given the absence of a comprehensive business case, feasibility study, traditional owner consent, and a clear investment decision.


As the state government tender for studies on various aspects of the project, including noise, greenhouse gases, and visual impacts, the need for transparency and thorough assessment looms large. With the Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro Project's future hanging in the balance, the need for responsible energy solutions that harmonise with environmental considerations and community well-being remains paramount.


In a landscape characterised by escalating debates and concerns, Save Eungella remains steadfast in our commitment to scrutinising energy projects, ensuring their alignment with environmental sustainability and the collective interests of our communities. As the Pioneer-Burdekin saga unfolds, we advocate for a more informed, transparent, and responsible approach to energy transformation.

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