The EES process & terms dictated by ‘the Brumby cartel’ for the Inquiry is the probably the most manipulated time frame for an State imposed project that has occurred in Vic.
Such is the repeated observations made by Watershed members to the EES Panel and in letters to Ombudsmen and parliamentarians.
It is acknowledged by all legal minds as without precedence: “Very strange, very unusual” said one Barrister when he briefed the newly formed Watershed Victoria group in late September 2008.
Unlike comparable proposals like the proposed (and failed) Nowingi Toxic Waste Facility, the people of South Gippsland and Eastern Melbourne and Mornington Penninsula directly affected by the cobbled together proposal, were given little time and little of no access to resources to prepare their cases on the huge effects on housing, farming, tourism, marine ecology, wetland ecology, migrating whales, and climate change.
Nevertheless the State pushed on with the EES process like a steam train on meth-amphetamines and using the same technology as the steam train era!!
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:
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!
Daily updates from DANNY DESAL broadcasting from the INQUIRY in Pakenham
Today was truly an ELECTRIFYING day at the Inquiry with 3 hours spent on the power supply options to the desal plant. Danny continues to be worried by the push from other affected groups such as Cardinia Shire and the Power Grid Option Group to either put it underground or build the gas fired power plant on site on the coast. Now Danny fully understands the call to put the power underground but to push for a power plant to be built on the coast smacks a little bit NIMBY perhaps!
Danny starting to get agitated !
Just imagine if all the resources opposing this plant had been focusing on stopping the plant being built in the first place? NO PLANT: NO POWER & NO PIPE! However its clear that the desal plant is being positioned as creating benefits to the local area including the additional power supply that the area needs anyway. Discussions included brown outs that we are all so familiar with and how this will fix it. SP Ausnet may have had plans to upgrade the power anyway but the desal plant has come in over the top so they will likely not be needed. The Agricultural scientist - Raymond Phillips - confirmed that the least impact option on agriculture would be underground and they haven’t measured “intangible” such as dislocation of homestead, or the trauma of intrusion as it’s difficult to put a dollar value on it. Something in life are priceless perhaps??? There was also an admission that perhaps the rehabilitation of land from BassGas has not been up to scratch and better control over contractors and project management could have helped!
Now Danny needs to check but the Government commitment to using recyclable energy does appear to have been further refined or maybe I just missed it in amongst the 1700 pages! The statements today were that the Government has committed to “offsetting the electricity used by the plant & water transfer pipeline” through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). Further the “required RECs based on electricity consumption NOT generation“. Now if a gas plant is built and it then provides power back to the grid that is not covered by the RECs. Might be nothing but perhaps Danny was looking too hard!
Allan Wyatt - Landscaper Architect - confirmed his recommendation (which isn’t the same as the proponent’s) for installation of steel poles and not the lattice towers on all the above ground areas from Woolamai to Tynong North. They also continue to claim that you won’t be able to make out the desal plant from the “magnificent” view as you come around from Anderson roundabout. Panel member Greg Sharpley did use the term “magnificent” in his question so they do see what we all see. The usual spiel about night lighting that won’t be like what we see tonight from the sample plant and also re-hiding the plant with proper mounding around the site and trees to cover power poles. Danny did feel like the Panel was asking very pertinent questions and really gave the impression that they had seen the area and appreciate the beautiful coast as we do.
Long day not finishing until 6pm and tomorrow they are putting up 4 experts so starting earlier at 9.30am and likely to still run through until 6pm. Danny isn’t dropping off just yet though and hoping you find these updates slightly interesting. Finding the highpoints is hard as they are far and few between.