The Bundaberg Region’s macadamia industry is growing at an unprecedented rate but the Australian Macadamia Society said uncertainty around water security was putting future investment at risk.
Currently the region produces about 42 per cent of Australia’s macadamia crop, a figure expected to increase to 50 per cent in coming years.
The board of the Australian Macadamia Society (AMS) met with local growers this week to discuss regional issues, including water security.
CEO Jolyon Burnett said they had assisted Sunwater and Building Queensland to survey local growers and everyone had been surprised by the level of investment interest.
However he said the survey had also revealed “how sensitive that investment is to water security and water availability”.
“I think when we first started talking to Building Queensland, their economic adviser was talking about maybe 300 hectares of macadamias being planted a year,” Jolyon said.
“We now know that's closer to 3000 hectares of macadamias a year.
“So that, I hope, has required them to go back and do a complete rethink on their planning and their plans for the future of water storage and water availability here.
“At the moment, we remain cautiously confident that they have got that message and they will honour the commitment made by the previous minister to restore the full capacity to the region, perhaps not necessarily in that particular storage.
“But I think Bundaberg will definitely be the loser if the current water security is not only maintained but improved over coming years.”
Jolyon described the Bundaberg Region as the “star” of the Australian macadamia industry.
“Some of the fastest growth in the industry is occurring right here in Bundaberg.
“Some of the most productive growers are here in Bundaberg and some of the most exciting innovations in technologies and practices are being driven by growers here in Bundaberg.
“It really is, I think, one of the shining lights of the industry.”
He said investors had already shown their confidence in the region with two to three thousand hectares of macadamia trees being planted per year.
“That's the fastest rate of growth we’ve ever seen.”
Jolyon said if water security could be restored, the future for the region was “rosy”.
“We already have the largest and most modern processing plant in the global macadamia industry here.
“This new one will be an equivalent size.
“Water security is absolutely critical, not only to the industry that is already here, but particularly to the future growth of this industry.
“It is one of the reasons that macadamias are already here in Bundaberg, that Paradise Dam has supplied very affordable, highly reliable water.”
AMS also took the opportunity to speak with Sunwater about its future water supply needs.
“We would like a significant investment in making sure that the distribution network, the channels and the pipes and the pumping system behind that, is sufficient to meet the future requirements of macadamias here.
“It was a system that was designed primarily for the cane industry. They require large volumes over small periods.
“The macadamia industry has a very different water use profile. We require consistent, reliable supply over almost the entire growing season.
“So we need to have a distribution network that's fit for purpose, regardless of whatever the ultimate storage capacity is restored.”