Duped by Desalination

“Figures just released to parliament revealing that in excess of $570 million will be paid annually to the consortium building the Wonthaggi desalination plant, regardless of how much water it delivers”, said Neil Rankine, Greens candidate for Bass, “show that the State Government was incompetent in ordering such a large plant.

“AquaSure the international consortium building the plant and the banks, Westpac and NAB, that set up the financing on the other hand have clearly secured a great set of contracts for themselves.

“Premier Bracks said the plant would be run constantly at full capacity when he announced it in 2007. They have been back-pedalling ever since. The excessive scale of the desalination plant was confirmed by studies I was involved in more than two years ago and again by DSE studies for the Environmental Effects Statement required for the desal plant.

“I met with AquaSure and the banks’ representatives in October last year after the signing of contracts. I asked them how they could possibly recoup their investment and make a profit on the project at the $3.5 billion cost then being given by the government, when only a fraction of the plant’s capacity was likely to be ordered in any year. The response involved the lifting of an eyebrow and the simple statement, ‘we’re pretty sure that we will be adequately compensated’.

“There is no doubt that Melbourne’s water supply needed augmentation after fifteen years of failing to foresee the impacts of population growth and climate change. The state government did start to develop a plan in 2002. To turn that promise, of a sustainable water policy, on its head, just after the last election shows gross disregard for what people will be paying, and for the lost opportunities the sustainable plan would have delivered.

“Melbournians will be the ones paying this minimum $570 million for the excessively large desalination plant, that’s of the order of $400 per household per year. If we assume the desal plant might operate at one third capacity on average, that would mean that this fee alone would give a current cost of water from the desal plant at $11.40 per cubic metre, wholesale (where the government has been spinning a $1.37 figure of late). Referring to Melbourne Water’s annual report, that is more than twenty times what it currently costs them to source our water (excluding the North-South Pipe & Desalination Plant).

“We have a government in Victoria more interested in mega projects to make themselves look progressive, rather than one interested in what is being extracted from our pockets and the environmental implications of these unsustainable projects”, says Neil Rankine, the Greens candidate for the state seat of Bass where the desalination plant is being constructed.

Contact: Neil Rankine, AGV candidate for Bass 0413 902571 neil.rankine@vic.greens.org.au

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