10 Nov 2008 @ 12:43 AM 

FINAL DAY 15 - DON’T SET YOUR EXPECTATIONS TOO HIGH! EXPECT THE WORST AND YOU’LL NEVER BE DISAPPOINTED SHOULD BE OUR MOTO!

Well Danny would like to say that it’s been a pleasure but DANNY WOULD BE SPINNING THE TRUTH and we’ve all had enough of that over the last 18 months. After today, it seems like the last few days of the individual submissions were actually uplifting by comparison! This was a session where firstly the EPA got to tell the Inquiry their final responses to issues raised during the hearings but it didn’t appear like they had done any comparison with the Performance Requirements to say whether they agreed with them or not and hence it became a bit of YES MINISTER yet again.

Ms. Mitchell didn’t let them get away with that however and they have to do the comparison like the Councils have done and come back in the next few days and then again the proponent gets to review them and respond if necessary.

Nevertheless the EPA believes that all the discharge into the ocean will be OK if appropriately managed through the statutory regulations. The EPA role, according to them today is to work through the application, third party comments on that application, the EES process, the Inquiry report, the advice re specific extra information in identified areas, the Independent Expert Group comments & reports and the FINALLY the Ministers assessment. Well Danny just hopes that they can manage all that information better than they seemed to have handled their input (or lack thereof) into the EES!!! Danny not filled with high hopes on this front!

Danny also thinking that another key issue into the near future is whether or not the final design matches the reference project as the EPA clearly said that they will need to make their final assessments at that time and if the final design is different then there is a process for amendments that have ‘tests’ around them and if they aren’t met then the course of action is open to require a new Works Approval. They will also be looking to make sure there is no substantial increase in waste & no detrimental effects to third parties particularly. As a matter of normal practice they evaluate the amendments and use the ‘tests’ to decide whether it is then necessary to inform the community and seek their submissions/consultation on the issues so they can form a final view.  We need to watch this very closely next year!

Danny thought he might give you a run down on what was said but quite frankly it was so similar to what has already been proposed by the EES Reference Project that it just doesn’t seem to warrant the energy to do so. It would seem that the proponent’s task at the EES Inquiry is to listen to the concerns and then simply come up with reasons why things can’t be changed on the final day!! Danny has a hardcopy of the statements made by the QC but will ensure it’s up on the website when it becomes available electronically which should be on Monday as they said it would.

Stuart Morris QC did like to tell us that he thought the Bass Coast Council, (Danny says - and by extension ‘the community’) were looking at this whole project with a pessimistic ‘glass half empty’ perspective when really we should be looking at it saying how wonderful it is and from a ‘glass half full’ approach given the excitement and how it will ENERGISE the area!!! Danny thinks he just doesn’t get it or thinks we are just a bunch of whiners but then again he is simply a lawyer and what he thinks, well who would know!

DIFFUSERS     DIFFUSERS     DIFFUSERS

After again listening to the QC say why Dr Black’s expert evidence was more accurate you would have to conclude that the diffusers on the outake pipes are the absolutely most important part of the $3.1 billion (more like $5 billion) project as they are either going to destroy the marine environment or make the entire project a huge success. Will we ever get to see this information under a PPP which will no doubt have a whole heap of secrecy around the final design or not. But don’t worry, the EPA and all the other government departments are on the job! They will be the ones to monitor everything and to make sure EMPs are enforced in the construction and just about fixing everything except world peace while they are at it!

Danny wonders if they are so good at what they do then why is it we have to have the desal anyway??

If you get a chance have a look through the documents that were tabled by the EPA and the Government at the final day at http://dsedocs.obsidian.com.au/planning/victorian-desalination-project/hearing-documents/ when they are updated in the next couple of days and see what the EPA particularly says about mixing zones etc.

WELL this is Danny signing off from the Inquiry. To say its been a pleasure would be a bit of a lie as it’s been more like having my teeth pulled at the same time as my toe nails pulled out!  It was painful from one end to the other of the process!

Danny hopes you have been able to keep even one eye on what’s been going on and they were even the smallest bit helpful in finding out what’s been happening in this mysterious and secretive process. Danny signing off for now and wanted to wish everyone a good rest after this arduous process and to also say how uplifting it was to get the heck out of Pakenham and get to the fabulous and inspiring art exhibition at Dalyston.

All associated with THE GIFT should be congratulated as it warms the soul.

DANNY SAYING ADIEU FOR NOW AND KEEP UP THE FIGHT AS THERE’S STILL A LONG WAY TO GO!

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 07 Nov 2008 @ 12:08 AM 

Day 13 & 14

HOW DO I COUNT THE WAYS THAT CAN DESCRIBE WHAT AN AWFUL AWFUL PROCESS THIS IS

Danny is sorry to combine two days in the one report but Danny has to admit at being a bit overwhelmed by the last two days and is having trouble digesting all the raw heartache and emotion that has been on display as we work through the individual submissions; but unfortunately the vast majority were those affected by the power routes. Danny says ‘unfortunately’ not because their concerns and the impact on them is not substantial and heart wrenching, but because it could give the impression that the power route is the most important aspect of this project.

Danny would be interested to know how they [the Panel administrators] decided on the list of individual submitters to speak at the limited hearing time as there certainly appears to be a heavy bias toward the power issues. Having said that, it seems that all were directly affected by overhead poles/towers being on their specific land so they have to stand up for what’s theirs as we all know what happens when you don’t!

Now Danny feels bad saying this but where did they think the power was going to come from for the desal mega-factory that people in the Bass Coast had been screaming about for 12 months earlier? Perhaps it’s confirmation that many of us don’t engage in the issues unless we are directly affected - Danny equally guilty of this - so will now cease to throw stones.

——-

 

Day 13 was still in San Remo and it had everything: frozen roadkill produced to show the Inquiry just what a Southern Brown Bandicoot looked like. As everyone tries to put a human face on the issue, this person tried to put the face of Nature - of animals - on display, since they don’t have a voice [at the EES] and people are trying to stand up for them and give them a voice. As one family said at the beginning of the day, how is it possible for us to tell our life story to the Inquiry in 10 minutes so they understand what it means to us? An impossible task - and that really set the tone for the rest of the day.

Many told of just how this process has consumed their lives (Danny understands where they are coming from!) and the stress is causing significant problems. A very elderly lady made the effort to come and put her case to the Inquiry to say how after four generations of farming their property, the overhead power lines would destroy it due to the way it crossed their land. (Danny not feeling very macho these days as he welled up yet again!)

They psychological impact of this entire project was emphasised by Alisa Dent imploring the Inquiry to fully understand how the natural environment is a defining and formative part of the Australian character and lifestyle. Will they get it? John Gemmill and the Bass Coast Boardriders tried to emphasise that simply saying “we’ll monitor it” was not good enough for the project proponents - surfers are not like canaries down the coalmine. Great to see his two young children present their own drawings to the Inquiry to show just how important this issue was to them.

Many other great presentations including Walter from Melbourne that tried to get them to do what his father used to say to him, “assemble the facts and the truth will emerge”.

—————-

Day 14 - Thursday 6th November was a very crowded day back at Pakenham since many people came to present their 10 minutes as well as support other presenters, and we were confined to a small room.

It was great to see that Neil Rankine tried yet again to show that the plant wasn’t needed and John Langford from Melbourne University even told the Parliamentary Inquiry into water supply recently that it should be scaled back and staged accordingly. Michael Beasley also tried to get them to listen to the bigger issues about climate change and marine impacts and implore them to protect their future. Were they listening? Who knows as I guess we will have to wait and see when the Inquiry report is given to the Minister on 4th December. Will we see it then? Highly unlikely as its then up to the Minister for Planning as to when he releases it and when he makes his recommendations to other authorities who will make the various decisions required for the plant.

 

We had theatre, singing and balloons today as everyone tries to get their point across and to get the Inquiry to actually hear what they are saying. Catherine Manning is standing up for her community affected by the substation and power route, however she took the time to say that her children would not thank this generation for putting in a polluting desal plant and “how will we explain it to them?”. (Danny discovered she is running for Council in Cardinia and almost wished she would move into Bass Coast!)

Many again said that the visual assessments and mitigation methods of simply planting some trees were an insult so I think it’s official. Everyone from Tynong to Wonthaggi thinks this is a crock of the proverbial! A few great quotes from the day:

  • the EES is just a verbose and self-congratulatory document to the Government and DSE
  • they didn’t conduct consultation but dictated to us what would happen
  • given how this process has been handled so far we have no faith in them handling things properly in the future
  • we have repeatedly tried to cut off portions of our property for family members to live and always been refused but the government can simply cut off whatever portions they now and call them easements

And as Bob Middleton reminded us all of Ernest Callenbach’s quote in Maude Barlow’s recent book Blue Covenant:

The Laws of Ecology
All things are interconnected.
Everything goes somewhere.
There is no such thing as a free lunch.
Nature bats last.

Never were these words more appropriate that this project.

Well we’ve nearly reached the end of the hearings - tomorrow Friday Day 15 - where the EPA speaks for one hour and the Government’s lawyers speaking for about 4 hours!

Oh the misery of it all.

Danny over and out for tonight but will have a very long one for you to summarise what new ….. the Government has to say.
Stay tuned.

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Well Danny was pleased to see Neville Goodwin, Gareth Barlow and Ken Smith here today for the rest of the Bass Coast presentations which were again of high quality. Danny couldn’t count the number of times the issue of poor communication and community anger came up through the morning but rest assured it was plenty and it must have got through to the Inquiry members.

In conclusion Allan reiterated that economics will play a big part in this project and that as many decisions will be left to the contractor we want to reinforce the need for a more integrated approach to decision making and ask there be an adequate balance between the economic / social and environmental issues so IF this goes ahead it is truly done at worlds best practice standard. He further emphasised that as a result of this project there is a damaged relationship with the state government and we will have to live with this plant forever therefore it is beholding on the State government to try to repair that relationship.

Jeanette Draper / Patti Wenn / Stephanie Symes all made really detailed and informative presentations about the social disadvantage in this Shire and this will compound it and could create a very unpleasant environment particularly if there are hundreds of workers doing the “fly in / fly out” and splashing money around. Patti Wenn went through the analysis of the NET COMMUNITY BENEFIT stating at the outset that this is a project where all the benefits accrue to metropolitan Melbourne and the State and problems do and will arise if one group’s needs and desires are treated as more important than another group. Patti further told them very clearly that despite her only being in the role at the Council for 4 weeks she has quickly identified that there is a lot of rage in the community and that the Council hopes that the Inquiry will make tough recommendations and performance requirements that ensure there is no disadvantage - beyond what has already happened - to the Bass Coast community.

Jeanette Draper talked through all the social impacts and emphasised that “it’s about the people” and they are the most important in this process but have ben largely forgotten. She described how the EES social assessments haven’t understood the level of passion this community has for their environment, their neighbour and their community. She detailed the statistics of the Shire identifying that we have a higher than state average unemployment rate, high numbers of single parent families and youth disadvantage, limited transport options and huge gaming losses in the Shire ($17 million last year), with the average mediate house rental at $200 per week and most of the public housing is in the private sector who will no doubt put rents up if so many workers come to town looking for somewhere to live. The issue of a construction workers village should NOT be on site and they wouldn’t approve of one but there were areas in Wonthaggi that could be looked at. The site would require about 5 hectares and must be done at a really really high standard with a variety of structures, integrate into the community and somehow be available to use after construction has finished.

Key points included:

  • Project has the potential to divide a socially cohesive community
  • The community feels very disempowered by the process and there is a level of distrust in the state government and general disapproval of the project
  • Concern about the influx of a predominantly male population which will equate to increased levels of anger & envy & mitigation measures were not stated in the Performance Requirements - only alluded to
  • Suggest the social cohesion studies be re-conducted after the construction begins
  • Community safety shouldn’t be compromised at all
  • There is only one 24/7 police station in the area and this will not be sufficient
  • The Council fully supports the Bass Coast Regional Health submission
  • There will need to be a lot of community building and development activities to alleviate the social impact of the project
  • We have the ability to manage the increase in demand of our population over the short term peak periods over summer etc. and should be noted that permanent residents are disadvantaged by seasonal issues but understand that tourism is essential to our viability and this project is different. One other difference is that all these events are planned for over several years and they just don’t happen over night and we haven’t seen evidence of planning for it.

I won’t go over the economic items as we all know them by now as they relate to creating jobs and upskilling of people in the local area and we’ve heard them before but they are equally important and need to be dealt with by the project proponent.

The afternoon was a very emotionally draining time for Danny and the community as this was the start of getting our voice heard with the ten minute slots for people to have their say. All were fantastic in their own way and you could just see how much effort people had put into making their ten minutes packed full of information that the Inquiry should listen to and take note of in their deliberations. It ranged from concern over the waste, sediment entrainment, the southern brown bandicoot, farming and the overhead powerlines lines issue, damage to the natural and unpolluted environment, visual disaster, marine mammals that haven’t been properly considered, insulting comments in the visual assessments, the totally unfair and undemocratic nature of this process, the number of black balloons this will create and just how WRONG WRONG WRONG this project is.

Danny wasn’t very macho when a mother, father and their little son presented their pleas to the Inquiry to stop a power transmission pole just outside their house and if the Inquiry wasn’t moved by their fabulous presentation of their beautiful, clean and safe environment that is to be destroyed then they aren’t human! Danny had to hold back the tears as they made their empassioned plea.

Danny expects that this will be an ongoing issue over the next few days so will take boxes of tissues and wear sunglasses to hide the tears!!

Danny wants to tell everyone who has made and will make their presentations that you make us all extremely proud and you should feel proud that you have stood up to be counted in trying to protect your environment, your community and we hope it makes a difference as future generations depend on it.

Few days off until Day 13 on Wednesday at San Remo and then its back to Pakenham for the final two days. Danny can’t wait for the proponents “response” to all the issues on the Friday! I’m confident it will go on and on and on and ……..

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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 !!!

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 30 Oct 2008 @ 8:02 PM 

Day 10 - WONDERFUL WATERSHED DID US ALL PROUD TODAY

The Watershed team did a great job in trying to raise so many important issues that MUST be thought about by the Inquiry in their deliberations and we should all feel proud of the community effort that has brought us this far. One has to wonder what would have happened if Your Water Your Say and Watershed weren’t there speaking out and raising all these issues? (too scary to think about really)

Danny wonders where all the Bass Coast Shire Councilors were?? Not one in attendance today at the Watershed presentations and Danny wonders why they couldn’t show up to support the community group!! If this is as much a political process as an environmental one it would have been helpful for the ‘politicians’ of local government to have supported this group. Some might think this comment is a little unfair but remember, these are Danny’s views and he has the power of the pen!

It was good to see Allan Bawden come down to Pakenham and his attendance and show of support is appreciated by Danny at the very least. Danny noticed also that the EPA visited for the expert witness presentations but then left as did one DSE person but then wandered in and out when Watershed was presenting. Make of that what you will !!

Also great that so many people could make the trip to Pakenham to show their support and that the community deeply cares about the impact of this proposal from many aspects of social impact to marine damage to climate change.

For those that weren’t able to attend Danny has taken copious notes so all can see how the day went and will get them up to the site as soon as possible after tidying them up and taking out the swear words!!

Danny also proud of the individual presenters - Nola Maxfield, Chris Heislers and David Wingfield - who argued both persuasively and emotionally as to what was wrong with both the EES and the desal plant itself. They should be loudly applauded for their efforts by everyone. Their individual presentations will be put up on the website asap for you to see and enjoy or rather dismay at the lack of information available in the EES to address these specific issues. The presentations really did put a human face on Watershed and just how much real and detailed knowledge and expertise is in the local area that will be directly affected and they need to be listened to and given equal weight to in the Inquiry’s deliberations.

Despite considerable barrister type questions Jochen Kaempf did a great job of virtually telling them that there was so much still missing from the ASR evaluations that they were running a ’severe’ risk in going ahead without considerable further modeling and assessment. His report will be made available on the site as soon as we can get it electronically as well.

It’s a short summary today and if you have the time Danny suggest you have a read of the presentations when they are available on the site as that fills you in since it was our day today.

It’s Bass Coast Council day on Thursday at San Remo and Danny is confident they will put up a strong case.

Kathy Mitchell did also make a point of saying how the Panel did value the input from the community and it will be taken seriously and thanked Watershed and its members for their significant contribution as we were an important part of this process. We can only but dream that it carries equal weight when they are writing their report to the Minister !

Danny dares to dream!

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Daily updates from DANNY DESAL broadcasting from the INQUIRY in Pakenham

Before Danny starts on the exciting proceedings of today he thought he might just say

DON’T FORGET WATERSHED DAY TOMORROW - WEDNESDAY 29/OCTOBER

Danny getting lonely!

The first witness was Hansen Partnerships who said that the landscape and visual impacts have not been suitably resolved and the EES doesn’t value the impact highly enough particularly if there is already Significant Landscape Overlays (SLO) in place and the ERM report is unbalanced and is biased towards development. Well Danny nearly fell over, surely the highly paid consultants by the Government wouldn’t favour their clients!!!! Never heard of such thing! The barrister type questioning of the witnesses is quite intriguing with the questions around the use of words to create impressions. Isn’t that what everyone is doing???

But wait, the light bulb has just gone on over Danny’s head - Cardinia Shire is pushing for the gas plant co-located on the site whereas the PGOG is pushing for more analysis to be completed and to underground from the grid. The PGOG understands that a gas plant on-site will still likely need to be connected to the grid and hence the issue of power lines comes up again but Cardinia just want it out of their Shire and seem to think that all their problems will be solved by the gas plant on-site. Danny is getting a little tired of using this expression but can’t find anything better - HOW NIMBY CAN YOU GET! But the proponent didn’t let them get away with it and emphatically hit the point that it would be highly likely that there would also be a power connection from the gas power plant back into the grid!

Same problem for Cardinia, different date!

You may or may not agree with me but this is a very very shortsighted and insular view. It’s basically saying we don’t care about the environment and other people in other shires we just want to look after ourselves. Now if anyone reading this is a resident of Cardinia Shire then Danny thinks you should be telling your Council that this is a really shallow and selfish perspective. Danny doesn’t want to upset people but, aren’t we all in this together?? Don’t we all care about the overall environmental impact of this or just the part that affects us directly?

The next expert talked about planning principles and the Planning & Environment Act and how it should relate to the terms of this Inquiry even though it has been convened under the Environment Effects Act. It’s all a bit legalistic but some quite valid points were raised about just how rigorous (or lack thereof) the assessments have been in this regard JUST as they relate to the area covered by the Cardinia Shire. But he did admit that the decision to build the desal plant will leave a lasting legacy and that when it comes to the delivery of water, “at what cost?” (Danny thinks he has heard that expression before!!!)

Danny also thinks that when someone says you don’t need good legal representation in the EES process - IGNORE THEM! This is as much a legal battle and use of language to ensure the panel members understand what they have been instructed to do by the Government and its not their role to evaluate Goverment policy, in this case, water policy. The QC’s for the Government certainly grilled the expert witnesses put up by Cardinia and will no doubt do the same for Watersheds expert and others. Let me just say that Chris Townsend SC put their expert under considerable vigorous questioning and when looking at the Inquiry members you have to wonder what impact it has. Danny not sure if its positive or not but I did get the real impression from Ms Mitchell’s comments that they are looking at a much broader set of issues and the proponent should not try to confine them.

Cardinia then went on to put forward a cost comparison of the various power options which Danny doesn’t have the expertise to go into any detail on. Doesn’t matter really as ultimately it will come down to what is the most acceptable bid put in and we won’t see it anyway as no doubt it will be “commercial in confidence”!!! I guess their real push is to get the Inquiry to recommend that much more work needs to be done to work through the power options and if that delays the project well Danny might get happier with them.

Guess what - Cardinia told everyone they won’t be in attendance until the closing day! What a surprise!!!!

That’s all folks and look forward to a positive day on Watersheds day on Wednesday.

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 28 Oct 2008 @ 1:44 AM 

Broadcasting from the INQUIRY in Pakenham - Day 8

Another day focused on power with Power Grid Option Group and the Cardinia Shire pushing vigorously for either under-grounding the entire route if the northerly grid connection is pursued or further investigation of the gas fired power plant option.

According to the Cardinia Shire presentation the Bass Coast community is getting all the attention and all the benefits of having this plant in their area!!!! Yes it’s true folks the argument has been made that since we will get the additional power augmentation to the area plus some additional jobs (perhaps) then that is a great benefit to offset any downside! Now Danny doesn’t quite understand why the Bass Coast Shire isn’t entitled to decent power that isn’t always flicking off like the rest of Victoria? Danny wanted to laugh out loud at this ridiculous assertion that we are somehow getting such great benefits from this plant. It was good to see Veronica Dowman there to support all the Bass Coast residents on this issue!!

Can also tell you that Ken Smith has been there about 3 times over the last week and good that he is taking the time to attend at least.

Now the PGOG was quizzed about the apparent problems within their own group such as those in the peat area where they don’t want it underground but want it moved altogether and they did have to admit that it was a little confusing and perhaps a little bit (only a little bit) NIMBY. They did however do a good job of demonstrating that putting the cables underground was as economically viable as overhead power and did not have the level of social impact. They also emphasised just how much volunteer time and effort had to be put in to do the work the Government and their highly paid consultants should have done. Danny hears their pain and can only but agree!

PGOG argued the major flaws with the Reference project were that the Government has appeared to mislead everyone - including the bidding firms - that above ground power on the NGC (northerly grid connection) route was the preferred option and hence there was not and would not be sufficient assessment of other options that could have a better outcome for everyone. Other flaws include the complete lack of ‘real’ consultation with the community; fast tracking has robbed the EES process of proper analysis; poorly evaluated the social impacts of overhead power option; under emphasised the land devaluation issue and minimised the inefficiencies of the overhead cable as a way to provide power. The group put up their own social impact slide and made the very clear and simple point that just planting a tree doesn’t genuinely mitigate the issue and it is like paying lip service to the real and personal impact this decision is having on people. They did put up three options that they suggest the Inquiry should be looking at:

  • a HVDC system from Cranbourne underground using the great southern railway line and then continue down the pipe alignment and then run it all the way down to the desal compound. (i.e. no transmission station at Woolamai)
  • a Tynong/Nar Nar Goon system underground using boring methods to go under the highway then follow the railway line to follow pipeline easement into the compound and terminal station in the compound as well and not at Woolamai. Then underground to Phillip Island and Wonthaggi from there to supplement local power system
  • go from Pakenham South underground where a 500KV line crosses at Pakenham and where there is ample ability to put a converter station in and again intersect with pipeline and go down from there same as above two options. Install terminal station in compound and if there is a further need to take energy created from wind or gas power plant that could be built to feed back into the grid.

The members of the Sandcrash property that abutts the desal site put up a solid presentation for the real issues that plague them as being the nearest neighbours to this monstrosity. They expressed their real concern that the buffer had always been talked about as being 300metres but it was only when they read the final technical report that they discovered it had changed to 100m from their boundary!!! What the heck happened they asked and why weren’t they told??? All good questions Danny thought and I hope the Inquiry did as well. They raised critical issues such as the total prohibition of any construction traffic using the Mouth of the Powlett Road and particularly given the big crowds and number of children that use that road over summer. They also asked if the Inquiry can stop the pilot plant workers using that road now as they aren’t supposed to be doing that either? Probably nothing will happen there! Noise issues were raised and put up some really eye opening slides with a big red shed as the desal plant to show just how big it will be on the landscape. As big as 10 city blocks! How can you hide that Danny asks?

Jan Fleming put up a plea to again protect the hooded plovers and Beverley Walker walked them through the acid sulfate soil issue.

Then it was on to Cardinia Shire and their first expert witness who talked about the impact on agriculture of the power lines. After that the legal representative for the Shire presented and a copy of what they said is being provided and should be put up on the Watershed site if you have the strength to look over it! Day 9 on Tuesday is still Cardinia and a further three expert witnesses so its all going to be power power power! Danny hopes he can power through it as he needs it but it invigorated when he remembers that it’s only two more sleeps until WATERSHED’s day on Wednesday. The Power group filled the hall with their supporters and applauded loudly to show their support for the presenters. We need to do the same so pleeeeease make the effort to come along for one day.

Off to sleep so Danny can stay awake through Tuesday!

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Posted By: Danny Desal
Last Edit: 09 Nov 2008 @ 02 33 AM

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 28 Oct 2008 @ 1:42 AM 

Sorry for the delay folks in getting this update to you as Danny was very weary by the end of the week and a bit tired and emotional as there were many heartfelt passionate pleas from normal folk like us. It took a couple of days to return to sanity so apologies for the delay. You may already know that the Chair/Kathy Mitchell wasn’t able to make it to the Friday session so it was chaired by Nick Wimbush.

There were 14 presentations for the day including Environment Victoria / VFF/Cardinia Ratepayes and Residents Assoc/National Trust/Friends of the Earth/Westernport Swamp Landcare/ Surfing Victoria/Friends of the Koalas/Bird Observation and Conservation Foundation/Pakenham Racing Club/Astronomical Society of Victoria/Phillip Island Conservation Society/Friends of Wonthaggi Heathlands/Horticultural Peat Farmers Group/Westernport Bird Observation and Conservation & finally but very importantly Bass Coast Regional Health.

Environment Vic & Friends of the Earth raised many issues that were clearly outside the terms of the inquiry but they felt they needed to be made anyway and they are very disappointed that the issues of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions weren’t dealt with properly in the EES and the whole issue of the offsets is deliberately murky and likely will be very easy to lose the issue of the renewable offsets in the wider state and national issues. Environment Vic put forward a clear recommendation that contractors should be required to purchase and surrencer RECS (Renewable Energy Certificates) on a per annum basis that are then extinguished and never to be used or traded again. That is, no double dipping allowed like they did in Western Australia. This option of course is only if the plant cannot be powered directly by renewable energy. Also raised issue that the one and half million tonnes of GHG produced during the construction period has not been addressed for offsetting at all.

Now they did however say that Environmen Vic was “resigned” to the fact we might get the plant but they fully support the community campaign to stop it being built, but, if it is to go ahead it should be smaller and have the flexibility to be powered up or down to reduce the power requirements. They also took the opportunity to highlight the irony of building an energy hungry plant to deal with water shortages accelerated by climate change. Nick Wimbush did say that the Inquiry would be considering how the offsets are done in their deliberations so we wait to see their recommendations.

The Victorian Farmers Federation presented and again focused on the issue of above ground power lines and argue that the farming community has to incur a disproportionate share of the impact of this infrastructure. Danny wonders what they think the Bass Coast community is wearing as a proportion of this project??? They covered the range of issues re the impact on farming and practices, the Kooweerup swamp area and the PCN issue. They also raised the issue that if recycled water were to be taken from Eastern Treatment plant to the Latrobe Valley they would be looking to take 20GL on the way through and the above ground power lines would restrict their ability to access this water.

Other highlights included:
booster pump station assessments were done for the wrong location

extremely rare for the National Trust to get involved but felt they had to given the significant impact this could have on landscape values of the area and there should be real quantitative assessments done that take community sensitivity into account for industrialising the coastline

no adequate assessment of impact on roadside vegetation and their impact on safe corridors for native fauna & impacts on koala must be taken into account and mitigation methods in the EES are inadequate

impact of the natural flooding of the site and the opening of the Powlett to protect the site will have impacts on the snipe and haven’t seen any proposals as to how this would be handled.

Lighting of construction site will disorient birdlife and attract insects which could alter the mix of birdlife that comes to the area

Impact of construction on hooded plovers / orange bellied parrots and impact of dogs at the site

Power line route runs smack bang through the middle of the new Pakenham Racing Club track and completely buggers up their proposed build

Night light pollution must be considered by the Inquiry as it is pollution that doesn’t get considered in the EES

Numerous listed flora and fauna species have been omitted from the EES and the work needs to be redone

Peat soil cannot be returned in its original condition when it has been excavated for the pipeline and all that land will be lost to the farmers and the flow on impact it will have

There is not enough emergency department space to cater for a construction of this size and it is questionable as to sufficient lead time to bring the hospital up to speed.

Danny was really concerned re state of the health situation in our area but this is nothing new as we all know!! That’s all folks and on to the start of the new week of a full 5 days of hearings including Wednesday 29 October the WATERSHED day and come along one and all!

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Posted By: Danny Desal
Last Edit: 09 Nov 2008 @ 02 34 AM

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Daily updates from DANNY DESAL broadcasting from the INQUIRY in Pakenham

Well it was again another for Danny to listen to the same comment of “we don’t take a position on the desalination plant” but don’t put those nasty powerlines through our Shire! Danny was a lot calmer today as forewarned is forearmed I suppose and the repetition has stopped it feeling like a dagger in the heart every time you hear it. Having said that Danny was a little distressed at the beginning of the day seeing the raw emotion of those directly affected with the issues and the feel that the process doesn’t seem to have a real way of addressing and helping directly with this aspect. The stress of the issue is clear on some of the submitters and understandably so.

We heard from the Longwarry & District Progress Association about the last minute advice that area that comes under Baw Baw Shire re they were included in the “option” of an alternative northerly power grid connection. The Shire reiterated later in the day how it wasn’t until mid-September that they realised their Shire could actually be caught up in the desal process so they were shocked and haven’t had time to properly evaluate the whole thing and more work needs to be done accordingly. Danny fully appreciates the real concerns of this community and they are no less valid and important than those on the coast. But Danny also dismayed as to how the issue seemed to fly over that whole community and Councils radar until that time! What did they think the crew on the coast were all up in arms about? Danny will in future look closer into the issues that other communities are trying to raise as we can all be a bit narrow in our focus. If it doesn’t affect me, do I really care??????

Anyway, the EPA doesn’t appear concerned that they are possibly giving approval for concepts of what will happen rather than what will actually happen. The notion of approving a range of options rather than the final thing has been done before but in this case the range of variations for which approval is being sought all need to be assessed so the EPA says they need to have confidence for each of the variations. They say they have identified the key bits they want the inquiry to give them advice on to be in a position to assess those variations e.g. variations on diffuser designs. They want the advice from the Inquiry as to what might be missing or is recommended! Sound strange, well the Inquiry thought so too and asked and tried to explain to the EPA what difficulties they faced as a result of this process. The Inquiry did say “there is still a lot to be resolved” and tried to clarify where it all fit in terms of responsibility. But the EPA wasn’t saying it was with them and responded that there are “further issues and info needed to be provided by the Project Company that will need to be resolved and identified so there is clarity as to how that process moves forward. That is, some issues cannot be resolved until the final project company is on board and those issues resolved.” You get Danny’s drift!

They did admit that they do require additional info on the ecological impact of some of the saline discharge and it “would” be better to have a better understanding and Kerry Blacks work from last week. It just goes to show that they don’t have all the necessary information and it is still coming in and proves the rush of this process. There is no doubt there is a focus on the design of the diffusers as the means to just about fix everything but of course we won’t know that design until the successful tender is awarded. When asked who could be responsible for any future monitoring the system is again appearing to leave it all in the hands of the successful bidder saying that “in the first instance the proponent has prime responsibility” but did admit that the EPA has a role to play! At last someone saying they might be responsible outside of the operator!

Now Danny doesn’t want to be too much of a critic but the DSE Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services that then presented pretty much said we expect and assume the current policies and protocols will be adhered to! Well done! Danny loved the level of bureaucratic speak deployed in that presentation! Sir Humphrey Appleby from Yes Minister would have been proud!

Danny could go on and on about the City of Casey and South Gippsland Shire presentations but you know the drill as it’s been said till we can’t say it anymore.

The Bass Coast Landcare group gave a very impassioned presentation and made sure the Inquiry understood they absolutely oppose the planting of any “exotic” plants to be used as screening and everything should be indigenous. Great point and it was a slap to the landscape architects of yesterday who just want to plant the right size trees to cover things over. They also made the really good point of how discouraging and soul destroying this is for all the landcare volunteers who have committed endless volunteer hours and effort replanting and revegetating areas over 20 years to now find the government will simply rip them out to put in either a pipe or power line. Such actions have consequences and they need to be considered. Danny hopes the Inquiry heard their pleas as they were well made.

The Australian Conservation Foundation endeavoured to bring the Inquiry back to the basics about how the coast is managed and what is wrong with the process and decision. They also tried to encourage them to be brave and step outside their terms of reference. Let’s hope they will be brave.

Day 7 here we come and each day gets us one day closer to the Watershed day next Wednesday so Danny hopes to see as many people as possible there to show just how much the community supports this submission.

Danny continues to dare to dream!

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Posted By: Danny Desal
Last Edit: 29 Oct 2008 @ 12 53 PM

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Daily updates from DANNY DESAL broadcasting from the INQUIRY in Pakenham

Danny growing weary! Thank goodness today was the final day of witness statements and presentations by the Government as think the plan by the Government is to simply wear us all down so we’ll throw our hands in the air and scream “enough already do what you like”!!!

But Danny says NO WAY your not going to wear us down. Maurice has also been a steady member of the audience every day and asking some great questions to keep them on their toes. The presentations today ran the spectrum of electromagnetic fields (EMF) from the power routes, the social impacts and the so-called economic benefits of the plant, pipe, power of the local, regional and state and finally on waste management assessment. Danny will tell you up front that the waste presentation excludes the saline discharge and any decommissioning of the plant as that apparently isn’t important or required for an EPA Works Approval!  Let’s just worry about that later shall we, let’s leave that for the kids to work out when they will have to deal with it!

Danny also surprised to hear that the discussion on the EMF was not about any related health issues but rather the Government “submitted” to the Inquiry that they should approach this issue by satisfying themselves that the current standards applied in Australia are satisfied rather than whether or not the standard is acceptable or not! To make sure no other issue was discussed the expert presenter was also only an ‘expert’ on the electrical engineering angles and could offer no comments on any health issues as he wasn’t qualified. Apparently however magnetic fields vary through the course of the day depending on the load they are carrying and cannot be shielded by trees and buildings but then again perhaps it could be done but it is “typically expensive”.

The economic assessment expert again tried to tell us that “positive” interactions with the community and tourists could be achieved through tourism of the desal plant! What planet are these people on! Also, there will be so much work for local tradespeople involved with the plant that even if locals couldn’t get anyone for their home work then the trades people would want to work weekends to get the extra money so everyone would be happy!  Have they tried to get a tradesperson to come on a weekend and be paid normal rates !!!!!!! But despite these claims there was much discussion about the largely temporary nature of the workforce for the plant that would come and go and even the terms “fly in fly out” was used just like a mining town. A construction workers village was mentioned so many times yet the consultants had not been to one anywhere that had been created for such a thing like this.

I don’t know how many times Danny heard that “I’m sure it can all be done if there is proper community engagement and liason and a good plan put in place”?  Dear Danny, don’t you know that community engagement is the Governments specialty? We want more more more of it as it’s been such an enjoyable experience.

Danny was also very heartened today by the numerous questions from the Inquiry members about the social impact and they were all the questions we wanted asked and they weren’t taking rubbish answers either! Danny can only hope but today was one of the more uplifting days where Danny didn’t get depressed by the end. Don’t put too much faith in the process however as no matter how good the Inquiry is, it’s still up to the Minister for Planning what, if anything, he accepts from their report.

Well, perhaps there is sunshine coming tomorrow as the Government finished their case today and we start on other groups submissions on Thursday morning and then into the individual submissions. The EPA is on so we’ll see if the Inquiry puts them under the pump re the works approval and waste disposal issues.

Danny dreams on!

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Posted By: Danny Desal
Last Edit: 23 Oct 2008 @ 07 14 AM

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