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Labor refuses to apologise for problem-laden desalination plant

Posted by: Ellen Feely | 3 December, 2012 - 9:52 AM
The Wonthaggi desal plant in October last year <i>(Wayne Taylor/FFX)</i>

The former state Labor government is refusing to apologise for the building of Victoria’s multi-billion dollar desalination plant despite the French boss of the project saying the project is too big for Melbourne’s water needs.

Speaking with Neil Mitchell, Opposition Spokesperson for Water and Former State Treasurer in the Bracks/Brumby Government John Lenders defended his party’s decision to undertake the problem-laden desalination project while in power.

The CEO company which was contracted by the government to build the plant told the Herald Sun the plant was too big to cater for Melbourne’s needs.

"The design was done to provide water to the full city of Melbourne in case of no rain during one year - which was not realistic," Suez Environment chief executive Jean-Louis Chaussade told News Limited.

When quizzed by Neil Mitchell as to whether that was the provision entered into between Suez Environment and the Labor Government, Mr Lenders denied the size of the desalination plant’s design was predicated on that basis.

"No, the design was done to guarantee Melbourne a third of its water from the ocean over a period of time," he said.

However on the question of regrets on undertaking the project, Mr Lenders conceded in hindsight had the government known Victoria would come out of a drought in 2010, they would have taken their time to build the desalination plant.

"I stand by the decision that in drought, if you take water out of the ocean, the water never runs out," he said.

"If I had've known that it was going to rain in December 2010, we would've done the same thing but over a longer period of time."

Mr Lenders said the plant would cost Victorian taxpayers $4-5 billion in today’s dollar terms.

"If water is drawn out of it, it costs more," he said.

Mr Lenders said the plan was for the plant to provide Melburnians with 150GL of water in drought.

However Mr Lenders deflected the cost of the project, saying the cost of the desal plant was equivalent to the amount of money the Baillieu government is taking out in dividends this year.

"There's also in here as much money is being paid in taxes and charges to the Baillieu government in dividends as is going to be paid for the desalination plant," he said.

Mr Lenders said the only reason the story appeared in today’s Herald Sun was because the Baillieu government had allowed for it to be published to embarrass the former Labor government.

"This story is in the paper today is only there because the Baillieu government wants it there," he said.

"His company has a secrecy agreement with government, it can't comment unless the Minister for Water lets it."

LISTEN: John Lenders MP speaks with Neil Mitchell:

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Blog comments Your Say

  • peter from rosana thats the point the thomson dam is 76 percent full. WE HAD TIME , WE HAVE GOT 76 PERCENT OF WATER in the dam , if we hadnt built the desal plant we could have built it at any time.. IF WE had built cheap dams they had time to fill up !!!!!!!!!

    Steve Wednesday 26 December, 2012 - 10:19 AM
  • Why would Labor apologize for only this one big cock-up? Labor made hundreds of cock-ups that would require apologies including myki. Of course, the corruption, IT mismanagement, crooked contracting, funding of spatial lobbyists amongst other things under Land Victoria is legendary and unprecedented. So let's not expect apologies for these shameless Labor hacks.

    Interestingly the same incompetent self-serving bureaucrats are still hanging around under One-term Ted and Minister Guy fawkes Planning.

    TF of LV Sunday 9 December, 2012 - 6:14 AM
  • After all the rain we have had this winter (record levels) the Thomson Dam is still only about 76% full. If we had built another ten dams there would not have been one extra drop of water for Melbourne. The desal was a great initiative and as Melbourne grows we will applaud the decision to build a big one.

    Peter from Rosanna Wednesday 5 December, 2012 - 3:53 PM
  • I was told a while ago that the original plan for the desal was to eventually supply water to a nuclear power plant...
    I scoffed!

    Now it seems clear that it was purposly constructed 'too big' for this reason and nuclear power for Australia has been on the cards for a very long time!!!
    Tacit agreements without the consent of the people, what a democracy!

    HV Wednesday 5 December, 2012 - 12:09 PM
  • It would have been cheaper to build a DAM and if it did'nt rain well then build the desal plant a small one to keep us going....

    marie Tuesday 4 December, 2012 - 8:15 PM
  • We should have had a small DESAL PLANT as soon as the drought took hold, and we wouldnt had water restrictions...

    steve Tuesday 4 December, 2012 - 8:10 PM

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