Baillieu backs desal plant

Issue 

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu announced on March 1 that the government would push ahead with the unpopular plan to build Australia’s largest desalination plant in Wonthaggi.

This is despite pre-election promises that he would re-examine the contract with Aquasure, the private consortium commissioned to build and operate the plant, which was approved under Labor premier John Brumby in 2007.

According to the Age on March 1, the eventual price tag is "$24 billion that is expected to double household water bills over the next five years".

The government released figures indicating Victorians would pay $19.3 billion for the construction of the Wonthaggi plant and its operation over the next 28 years — even if no water is used — and almost $24 billion if the maximum 150 billion litres a year are purchased.

Community group Watershed Victoria has condemned the plan.

Neil Rankine, a spokesperson for Watershed, told ABC Online on March 1 that the contract with Aquasure should be terminated.

“Even if it's going to cost a couple of billion dollars to break the contract and actually build the sustainable alternatives that we should have always done, it still should be cheaper to go down that route,” he said.

As well as the enormous cost, there are numerous environmental concerns about the plant.

The scale of the plan will mean that sustainable options to source water are unlikely to be implemented.

If the plant operates at full capacity it will use up to 2% of Victoria’s electricity use and therefore increase carbon emissions.

The plant will also discharge water back into the ocean that is twice as salty as normal sea water and contains toxic chemicals.

[For more info, visit www.watershedvictoria.org.au .]

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