Hughenden Irrigation Scheme

In May 2022, project proponents Hughenden Irrigation Project Corporation (HIPCo) delivered the final Detailed Business Case to the Australian and Queensland governments. This $10 million detailed business case was funded by the Australian Government through the National Water Grid Fund.

The Hughenden Irrigation Project Detailed Business Case proposes to build an instream storage system of 161,000 ML on Saego Station, 45 kilometres north-west of Hughenden. The project aims to support an irrigation area scheme servicing up to 11,000 ha with 4,800 ha for high value horticulture and fodder crops for the local grazing industry.

Claimed benefits

The proposed scheme aims to generate $776.6 million in benefits (net present value) over the life of the project and over 1,900 ongoing new agricultural jobs, at full production. It also seeks to provide 2,500 jobs over the two-to-three-year construction period, including almost 600 people directly employed in construction.

2022-23 October Budget

As part of the October 2022 Budget, the Australian Government deferred further investment in the Hughenden Irrigation Scheme.

A copy of the Detailed Business Case is available at the following link: Hughenden Irrigation Project: detailed business case.

Further information about the Hughenden Irrigation Project is available from the HIPCo project website.


To support economic development in the Flinders River region, the Australian Government committed $2 million to the Hughenden Irrigation Project Corporation (HIPCo) to undertake detailed feasibility work, which was completed in February 2020. This work assessed a range of options for a major water infrastructure complex to support a major new irrigation area of up to 10,000 ha, which would enhance the region’s drought and flood mitigation capacity, and improve regional fodder production to boost North Queensland’s cattle industry.

Feasibility study funding was subsequently backed by a $10 million commitment for the development of a detailed business case to test assertions made in the feasibility study. The Detailed Business Case was submitted in May 2022.

Big Rocks Weir

On 21 August 2020, the final business case for the Big Rocks Weir was handed to Government. The Business Case, which was part of the Hells Gates Dam project, was undertaken by Townsville Enterprise Limited. 

The Business Case examined the feasibility of Big Rocks Weir, a proposed new weir on the Burdekin River, within the Charters Towers Local Government Area, approximately 26 kilometres north of Charters Towers and 23 km upstream from the existing Charters Towers Weir.  

The Big Rocks Weir Business Case suggests a strongly positive economic outcome from the construction of a 188 metre long, 10,000 ML capacity weir at Big Rocks, north of Charters Towers. A portion of the water captured by the Big Rocks Weir would go toward boosting water security in the Charters Towers region, with the remainder available for up to 5,000 ha of higher value agriculture.

2022-23 October Budget

The Australian Government committed an additional $8 million to the project as part of the October 2022 Budget.

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Big Rocks Weir Final Business Case

Hells Gates Dam Scheme (including Big Rocks Weir)

The Australian Government committed $24 million for a detailed business case, including detailed geotechnical and cultural heritage assessments, environmental impact report and engineering analysis. The business case tested findings from the 2018 Hells Gates Dam Feasibility Study that up 50,000 ha of irrigation could be supported through a 2,100 GL Dam, bolstered by 3 downstream irrigation weirs and a further weir located at Big Rocks near Charters Towers. 

The Detailed Business Case was provided to the Australian Government in September 2022. Copies of the Detailed Business Case and its supporting documents are available at the following links:

2022-23 October Budget

As part of the October Budget 2022, the Australian Government decided not to proceed with the Hells Gates Dam project.

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