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.
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!
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!