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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Categories: EES panel hearing reports
Posted By: Danny Desal
Last Edit: 09 Nov 2008 @ 02 30 AM

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