The fact that Bundaberg irrigators have gone from having one of the most secure water sources in Australia to one of the most unreliable is said to be leading to mental health concerns.
According to cane farmer Judy Plath, growers in the Burnett River Scheme were struggling because of decisions about Paradise Dam and water allocations: "Sadly, in the last couple of months, I've had four different farmers talk to me about suicide, which has been quite confronting. Basically, they're grappling with so much uncertainty, so much unknown."
Sunwater released 100,000 megalitres of water from Paradise Dam in September 2019 and has since reduced the spillway by almost six metres to address structural and stability issues. However, a decision on the dam's future is yet to be made and the report by Building Queensland is due to be handed to the state government by year’s end.
"There's been all this talk about the safety of people in Bundaberg … and very little talk about the safety of farmers in terms of their futures, their emotional safety and emotional health," Mrs Plath told https://www.abc.net.au.
Reduced allocations feared
Originally, many growers invested in tree crops – including macadamias and avocados – because of the security provided by Paradise Dam. Mrs Plath said: "A lot of growers won't be able to plant crops. For others, like macadamias and avocados, they're incredibly vulnerable to losing those trees, because they won't have enough water to see them through."
OzHelp will hold wellbeing and suicide prevention workshops in the Wide Bay Burnett later this month. Mrs Plath said it would help to educate people within the agriculture industry on how to identify someone with mental health issues, including depression.