Fairbairn Dam

50 years of Fairbairn Dam

Recently, a weekend was dedicated to celebrations as Fairbairn Dam reached a significant milestone.

More than 900 people spent time by Sunwater’s Lake Maraboon to celebrate 50 years of Fairbairn Dam.

With support from Central Highlands Regional Council and local emergency services, the day promoted important safety messages alongside plenty of family fun.

The open day was preceded by a dinner on the base of the Fairbairn Dam spillway.

Among other guests, the Minister for Regional Development and Manufacturing and Minister for Water Glenn Butcher, Sunwater chair Lisa Caffery and Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes attended the once in a half century opportunity.

The event was a fitting way to celebrate the iconic asset that has transformed the Central Highlands region into the irrigation and mining powerhouse it is today.

Fairbairn Dam history

Emerald may not have become the centre of the food bowl it is today if not for a decision in 1948 by the British Food Corporation to grow sorghum in the area.

Sorghum’s success demonstrated the viability of cropping in the region’s rich black soil, and Emerald’s fortunes changed.

As agriculture grew, the need for stable water supplies grew with it, and the decision was made in 1968 to build the giant Fairbairn Dam – the state’s second biggest after the Burdekin Fall Dam.

It is named after David Fairbairn, the Federal Minister for National Development at the time.

Construction was completed in 1972 and the storage it formed, Lake Maraboon – Maraboon is a local Aboriginal name for “where the black ducks fly” – holds 1,301,000 millilitres of water.


Fairbairn Dam
Fairbairn Dam is the redclaw capital of Queensland.


The dam’s primary function is to store water for irrigation, industrial and urban use and was not designed for flood mitigation and does not include a flood-mitigation compartment, however does provide some flood attenuation benefits to downstream communities.

Note – Fairbairn Dam is stocked by the Emerald Fish Stocking Group Inc.

The dam is stocked with barramundi and golden perch.

In 2017-18, 9000 barramundi, 39,500 golden perch and 7150 silver perch were stocked from Stocked Impoundment Permit sales.

A total of 252,514 barramundi, 489,412 golden perch and 7150 silver perch have been stocked in Fairbairn Dam from SIPS since the group joined the scheme in 2009.

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