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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Nov. 24) – An ambitious plan to export fresh Papua New Guinea water to drought-stricken Australian states is before the Australian Federal Government.

Australia has been hit by the worst drought in [history], affecting more than half of the country’s farming pastures. This has forced the federal government to draw up emergency plans to secure long-term water supplies to towns and cities.

Queensland-based entrepreneur Brian Richardson – adamant the solution to the drought lies in PNG – has written to the Queensland and Australian federal governments to propose a pipeline for PNG-sourced fresh water be built to Cape York, Australia and could run parallel to a gas pipeline to be used by the PNG to Queensland Gas Project. Another pipe would run from Cape York down to Queenland’s Burdekin Dam and on to Brisbane’s Wivenhoe Dam to supply the city as well as towns and cities in New South Wales and Victoria.

The water would be pumped from rivers in the Western Province’s Purari Delta.

The other alternative would be to use LNG (liquified natural gas)-powered 240,000-tonne tankers to ship the water to the Queensland coast.

Mr. Richardson told the Post-Courier that Australian Prime Minister John Howard was "very keen" when he was approached on the proposal and referred the Queenslander to the National Water Commission and Australian parliamentary secretary to the prime minister Malcolm Turnball.

"The current situation is Victoria, New South Wales are in the same situation with Queensland in terms of drought. I have approached some Japanese interest (NHK Line) for a 240,000-tonne tanker," he said.

Mr Turnball on May 8 wrote to Mr Richardson advising his proposal would need to be carefully assessed to judge the relative cost effectiveness.

"It is prudent to say that many large-scale infrastructure developments have been proposed over the years and that by and large these proposals have failed to meet the COAG (Council of Australian governments) Water Reform Framework criteria of being technically feasible, economically viable and environmentally sustainable," Mr Turnball said.

But the Sydney office of NHK Line, arguably the world’s largest shipping company, wrote to Mr Richardson on November 8, 2006 saying they could offer a LNG-fueled bulk water tank – dependent on a commitment to design studies and a longterm charter prospect.

Brisbane-based PNG Government representative and consul general, Paul Nerau, said the proposal had the potential to generate revenue for PNG and create employment opportunties for Papua New Guineans.

"Anything that is an opportunity for Papua New Guinea, I will come in," Mr Nerau said.

While the proposal has been put on the "backburner" by the Julian Moti saga, Mr Richardson yesterday appealed for support from senior PNG Government ministers saying his proposal had immense benefits for both PNG and Australia.

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