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 !!!
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.
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!
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!
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!