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Chapman asks Ted Baillieu for Royal Commission into Wonthaggi Desal Plant approval process

If we had direct democracy and referendums in this country, the Wonthaggi Desal would never have got up - but we don't, yet. Andrew Chapman is leading a fight for water justice for Victorians to find out how on earth the Brumby government got away with this one. The project is currently estimated to cost $5.7b and it is thought that Victorians will be paying $600m/year for it whether or not the water is required. It will also tax Victoria’s electricity supplies. See also: More on Wonthaggi Desal plant and history of Royal Commission movement

Ted Baillieu MP

Premier of Victoria

1 Treasury Place
Melbourne 3002

Dear Premier,

Victorians are to pay for a desalination plant when Melbourne’s water storages are over 60% capacity and continuing to rise. Because it is unlikely that desalinated water will be required in the foreseeable future Victorians have a right to know how the government made the decision to proceed with this project.

Melbourne's water storages

Melbourne’s water storages are designed to incorporate short and long term fluctuations in climate and provide for population growth and water is retained by introducing restrictions when dryer periods become apparent. The Bracks government failed to take appropriate measures to conserve stored water then decided to construct a desalination plant at Wonthaggi. The decision preceded an EES, public consultation and statutory planning procedures and the subsequent EES did not properly consider alternatives, including the doing nothing option. The project is currently estimated to cost $5.7b and I understand Victorians will be paying $600m/year for it whether or not the water is required. It will also tax Victoria’s electricity supplies.

Given the project’s significant social, economic and environmental impacts I ask that the Premier initiate a public inquiry with the sole purpose of determining just how the desalination plant was approved. The scale of the project is such that the approval process should be examined by no less than a Royal Commission.

A Royal Commission should examine the following:

* The management of Melbourne’s water storages including how and when water restrictions were introduced,
* The reports and data on which the Bracks government based its decision to adopt desalination as a method of meeting Melbourne’s water needs,
* The reports and data on which the Bracks government based its decision to build a desalination plant at Wonthaggi,
* The expert reports which formed the basis of the EES and whether or not they contained bias,
* The EES panel’s consideration of evidence contained in submissions to the EES and
* How the panel report came to recommend in favour of the desalination plant.

On closer examination by your office there will no doubt be additional matters that are found to warrant examination.

A Royal Commission would discover whether or not decisions were guided by appropriate professional expertise and its purpose would be to minimise the social, economic and environmental harm from this project and ensure that this situation does not occur again.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Chapman
Inverloch 3996
Victoria, Australia
Fax: +61 3 56743732
Mob: 0438567412

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We are always preached to about being "sustainable" and about reducing water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, recycling, and the avoidance of over-using our cars. However, governments are guilty of being the biggest guzzlers of power, of being addicted to the growth paradigm, and of being the biggest eco-criminals in our society! The public are supposed to take action, but not governments. The Desal plant was an enormous mistake, and the public will be forced to pay for it. There is nothing "sustainable" or environmentally friendly about this project. It was a complete management disaster. The Bracks/Brumby government, even during the drought while they had the Target 140 litres a day campaign, continued to boost Victoria's population and outstripped any efforts made by the public to save water!

Brumby gets to retire in comfort, yet the public will be burdened for years for this folly of un-sustainable madness.