Daily updates from DANNY DESAL broadcasting from the INQUIRY in Pakenham
Well today was Bass Coast Shires turn to tell the Inquiry what it thought of the whole process and IF this thing goes ahead then it must be done as worlds best practice and not the “worlds worst practice” as Allan Bawden advised the Inquiry that the community consultation and engagement had been. He told them - and Danny concurs - that if the Council had conducted an engagement plan the way the State Government had then they “would have been lynched”!!! It was good to see the Mayor Neville Goodwin there but again didn’t see any other Councillors! What’s going on here???? Sorry now have to correct that as Veronica Dowman did arrive around 11am and stayed for most of the afternoon.
Danny losing sense of humour with this mob so bring on the election although the candidates look a bit thin on the ground!
The Council staff - Allan , Hannah Duncan-Jones and Steve Piasente - did a great job in highlighting what has worked badly in this process and what would have to happen in the future if this thing goes ahead. Allan made it clear at the outset that they did not support the building of the plant and that it was their view that it was only being built due to the failures of the Government to properly assess all water options available to Melbourne and that it represented policy on the run. they also repeated the message through the day that the engagement with the community had been terrible and hence there was a high degree of mistrust and that it was imperative that the Inquiry make strong recommendations of what needs to be done if it goes ahead.
They went through what happens in the Bass Coast Shire advising the demographics etc and put up many great pictures of the landscape that everyone in the community wants to protect and to also explain why tourism is a growing industry in this area. They used the pilot plant EMP as the example of just how there is a lack of accountability and responsibility for monitoring and controlling what is happening on the ground and they want to get it right before it starts rather than try to fix it up afterwards. Now whilst Danny doesn’t want to really talk about what should be done IF construction starts on this awful thing but Danny has reluctantly convinced himself that the Council has to put forward all these restrictions and conditions to the Inquiry so they can make sure they are incorporated into what goes to the Minister and then through to the contractor. Without this step who knows what would happen??
Hannah Duncan-Jones gave a great presentation on all the planning issues and why they are important to the Shire and the community and that the EES doesn’t address or reflect them including the Coastal Spaces Strategy or even the principals of the planning schemes and the impact of this plant is heaviest on the Bass Coast Shire with the majority of the benefits of it going to Melbourne. Rob Milner a consultant for the Council tried to further enlighten the Inquiry on the proper use of planning frameworks but after questioning by the Government barrister, everyone was left with no confusion that the Environment & Planning Act allows the Minister for Planning to effectively use his discretion to do what he thinks best! Another consultant David Dreardon, another consultant for the council talked through the landscaping assessments and
that the report inadequately deals with recreational aspects & values and no indication of the methodology applied so unsure when it was conducted and hence means to address it have been left out. He said the Kilcunda rail trail has been left undone, inadequate view assessment were done and the report makes no assessment of the importance of the recreational values and there was no info on number of people that use it so can’t identify how many it affects.
Steve Piasente went on to talk them through the big issues of the traffic, waste and power route impacts on the Shire and the roads that must be upgraded and fixed before anything starts. The list was long, trust me and they made it clear also that the gas fired power plant on the site was totally opposed by the Council. The Inquiry spent some time understanding the access roads etc into the site from all angles and what is bitumen and what is dirt etc so hopefully they will understand and we believe they were doing some touring after the hearings.
All the photo’s of the terrible roads in this area had Danny worrying about how we are going to cope with all that traffic on our little and falling apart roads!
Probably much more to tell about the day but might be good to get the presentations and put them up on the site so you can see them. Danny will work on that on Friday.
Only 4 days to go and Danny, whilst loving every minute of this excruciating process is looking forward to it being over !!!