If we had direct democracy and referendums in this country, the Wonthaggi Desal would never have got up - but we don't, yet. Andrew Chapman is leading a fight for water justice for Victorians to find out how on earth the Brumby government got away with this one. The project is currently estimated to cost $5.7b and it is thought that Victorians will be paying $600m/year for it whether or not the water is required. It will also tax Victoria’s electricity supplies. See also: More on Wonthaggi Desal plant and history of Royal Commission movement
Ted Baillieu MP
Premier of Victoria
1 Treasury Place
Victorians are to pay for a desalination plant when Melbourne’s water storages are over 60% capacity and continuing to rise. Because it is unlikely that desalinated water will be required in the foreseeable future Victorians have a right to know how the government made the decision to proceed with this project.
Melbourne’s water storages are designed to incorporate short and long term fluctuations in climate and provide for population growth and water is retained by introducing restrictions when dryer periods become apparent. The Bracks government failed to take appropriate measures to conserve stored water then decided to construct a desalination plant at Wonthaggi. The decision preceded an EES, public consultation and statutory planning procedures and the subsequent EES did not properly consider alternatives, including the doing nothing option. The project is currently estimated to cost $5.7b and I understand Victorians will be paying $600m/year for it whether or not the water is required. It will also tax Victoria’s electricity supplies.
Given the project’s significant social, economic and environmental impacts I ask that the Premier initiate a public inquiry with the sole purpose of determining just how the desalination plant was approved. The scale of the project is such that the approval process should be examined by no less than a Royal Commission.
* The management of Melbourne’s water storages including how and when water restrictions were introduced,
* The reports and data on which the Bracks government based its decision to adopt desalination as a method of meeting Melbourne’s water needs,
* The reports and data on which the Bracks government based its decision to build a desalination plant at Wonthaggi,
* The expert reports which formed the basis of the EES and whether or not they contained bias,
* The EES panel’s consideration of evidence contained in submissions to the EES and
* How the panel report came to recommend in favour of the desalination plant.
On closer examination by your office there will no doubt be additional matters that are found to warrant examination.
A Royal Commission would discover whether or not decisions were guided by appropriate professional expertise and its purpose would be to minimise the social, economic and environmental harm from this project and ensure that this situation does not occur again.
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