Desalination EES 'stage-managed'

September 7, 2008

Protests are continuing against the Victorian state government's planned desalination plant at Wonthaggi.

About 200 protesters took part in the GetUp! climate torch relay in Wonthaggi on August 30, burying their heads in the sand on the beach to symbolise the state government's response to climate change. Desalination is highly energy-intensive and will require a substantial amount of Victoria's power generation capacity to run and present other environmental problems.

On September 4, state water minister Tim Holding visited Wonthaggi to meet with the community. He was met by a crowd wearing gags, symbolising how they have been treated in the planning process.

Holding refused the meeting's request to ask the state planning minister for an extension for community responses to the Environmental Effects Statement (EES) beyond September 30.

"We have been given just six weeks to analyse a document that took at least eight months to prepare and respond — with only volunteers working part-time on it", Andrea Bolch, president of Your Water Your Say (YWYS), told Green Left Weekly. The EES is more than 1600 pages.

In an August 20 statement, Bolch said: "The EES does not include any evaluation of the water augmentation options available to Melbourne and ... does not include costing information for the public, who will pay for this plant".

YWYS believes there will be around a fivefold increase in domestic water bills when the costs of the project are passed onto households. Bolch told GLW that "this is a microcosm of what's wrong with how governments make decisions about climate change — addressing the symptoms but making the problem worse".

According to YWYS, the state government "has turned the whole intent of the EES process on its head by making the decision with no information on the environmental consequences, designing a scope of reference to get the outcome they want and then using that information to support their decision", amounting to "a highly stage managed process".

Bolch said that YWYS would continue their campaign despite the difficulties. The YWYS information and protest caravan will tour the coast and hopefully attend Melbourne events in coming months.

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