The current proponent of the dam is Bowen River Utilities, working through one of its subsidiary companies, Urannah Water Scheme. (1)
The project is being driven by Bowen Collinsville Enterprise (BCE) – an economic development agency made up of leaders representing selected industries. BCE has been charged with developing the Preliminary Business Case for Urannah Dam. (2,3)
The project has been pushed by prominent Liberal National Party (LNP) Ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, George Christiansen, Matt Canavan and Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington.
Following the money
According to Guardian Australia, “the unusual structure of grant arrangements and announcements, which obscured the ultimate beneficiary and its links to the LNP, have prompted concern about the process and alarmed integrity experts.” (4)
In 2016, $3million of taxpayer money was handed over for a feasibility study for the Urannah Dam project. Made available through the Water Infrastructure Fund, and awarded by the then Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, the $3million was given to a consortium involving the venture capital firm Initiative Capital. Initiative Capital is run by John Cotter Jr., the sole director of Bowen River Utilities, and a former Queensland LNP state executive. Although Cotter hasn’t been formally involved with the LNP administration for the past few years, Guardian Australia recently published that “LNP sources say Cotter has been one of the party’s most effective fundraisers”. (5)
Cottor’s business partner, lobbyist Gerard Paynter, is another prominent member of the LNP. The Deputy Prime Minister’s office at the time said recommendations for funding were made by the Queensland Labor Government, but the Labor Government said this was false and that Urannah Dam project wasn’t on the list of funding priorities sent to the Deputy Prime Minister.
In 2019, a further $10 million in federal taxpayer money was given to Bowen Collinsville Enterprise for the development of a detailed business case and environmental assessment. Bowen Collinsville Enterprise promptly handed the $10 million to Urannah Water Scheme Pty Ltd. Under the arrangement, Urannah Water Scheme is being paid as a subcontractor to complete a business case and environmental assessment on its own proposal.
What about Queensland state taxpayer money?
The Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington has promised another $10m in state funding if elected. Deb Frecklington is married to Jason Frecklington, who is employed by both Bowen River Utilities and Initiative Capital. According to Guardian Australia, Deb Frecklington has said her husband’s employment was appropriately declared to parliament. (6,7)
Here’s a graph mapping out these connections:
22/09/2016 Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has sought to point the finger at the Palaszczuk Government over the $3m Urannah Dam feasability study which was awarded to a company with high ranking Qld LNP members but documents show he was the final decision maker.