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:
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.
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:
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 ……..