Government to bankrupt desalination protesters

Your Water Your Say (YWYS), the group campaigning against Victoria's proposed Wonthaggi desalination plant, is facing bankruptcy due to the state and federal governments' decision to pursue costs against the group after it lost a preliminary court case over the project.

YWYS argued in the Federal Court that federal environment minister Peter Garrett failed to give appropriate consideration to greenhouse gas emissions and the effect of further global warming on wetlands of international importance, and listed threatened species and communities. It argued that Garrett's acceptance of the Victorian government's decision to administratively separate the pilot plant from the major works enabled works to begin before any inquiry into the environmental effects.

YWYS president Andrea Bolch said in a May 25 statement: "The pursuit of costs from community groups that challenge government decisions strikes at the heart of democratic principles and our right to be heard. The government has decided that they don't want pesky community groups questioning or challenging their decisions so they will spend enormous amounts of taxpayer funds to fight them in court and then ensure they are put out of business."

Bolch added, "If the governments are successful in securing costs, YWYS will effectively face bankruptcy and the voice of the community will be silenced ... The government has never justified nor explained why it had chosen the most expensive and environmentally damaging solution to solve Melbourne's water problems. By taking this action they will try to ensure they never have to explain it."

YWYS campaigners have not given up. They will challenge in court the governments' application for costs and are continuing their campaign with a community protest at the plant site near Wonthaggi. The group is planning to send a large contingent to the July 5 Climate Emergency rally in Melbourne. Stay informed about the campaign at http://www.yourwateryoursay.org.