Whats Up with Melbourne Water?

Neil Avery ponders why the Victorian government is again pushing the proverbial up hill, wasting resources and energy while upsetting  regional Victorians who have good reason to be concerned.

Leaving aside the politics of ‘North of the Divide’ water for Melbourne,
the decision to pump from the Goulburn River near Yea, back over the Dividing Range would seem to be the result of rather muddled and extravagant thinking.

This water fell high in the Dividing Range and here is the logical place to harvest it. We need only to look back to the 1960’s when it was proposed that Melbourne’s catchments could be enlarged by diverting south, some part of the Big River – a tributary of the Goulbourn with its headwaters immediately adjacent to the Upper Yarra’s catchment.

History records that back then, politics won and Henry Bolte scotched the proposal, instead the Thompson Reservoir was commissioned. With the renewed interest in the South tapping into the North’s water, surely the most expedient and significantly cheapest solution is to harvest the Big River, where we are not talking of a massive storage reservoir but merely a small diversion weir – and let gravity do the work.

Neil Avery, Doncaster

So what’s going on with Melbourne’s water Premier Brumby, and why are you persisting with perverse policy which escapes both rules of governance and common sense? And why when we look at the project is an international coalition of the very willing swamping state management of water? The Military Industrial Simplex line-up includes Gutteridge Hasking Davey (GHD), Sinclair Knight and Holland Brown. Are we managing the sustainable use of water or preparing for war? Judging from the strong arm tactics used against protesting citizens, the latter assessment may not to be that far from the truth.

mcleish.jpg

"It's a sad day for democracy": Farmer Deb McLeish had the backing of
her extended family after being led away by police on her Yea farm
yesterday.Photo: Paul Rovere 

Victorian Water Minister Holding offers inexplicable and undefined guarantees and bypasses an environmental assessment process knowing the Canberra rubber stamp man is doing his job as predicted. Senator Nick Xenophon is rightly gob smacked by the apathy shown by the encumbent ‘environment’ minister :

“How can Peter Garrett sign off on a project that has the potential to devastate part of the river system and have implications for the entire river system, when the Commonwealth Government’s own audit of the system hasn’t yet been undertaken?” he asked.

“It just beggars belief.”

Senator Nick Xenophon, ABC’s PM, Sept 12, 2008

Ellen Hogan from the other alliance wants to know why these new ‘Water Lords’ have been given the green light on this odd project:

The north south pipeline corridor will reek havoc on the environmental values at the off take on the Goulburn, rip a 70km swathe through the Yea River valley, over the Great Divide and down into the Yarra Valley.

It will cut through floodplains, wetlands, require 187 stream crossings, remove old paddock trees and 80 hectares of the Toolangi State Forest not to mention all the other native vegetation in its way.

The project has the potential to cause severe sediment movement across the valleys, displace acid soils, increase saline water runoff (dewatering of trenches) pollute surface water and groundwater tables that in some areas are only 3 metres below the surface of this beautiful valley.

I have not even touched on a magnitude of other factors such as power generation, greenhouse gas emissions, carbon trading, traffic disruption on the Melba Highway, compensation to landowners and the infrastructure required.

As always, there is a simple solution thanks to the CSIRO – a kids game on water education helping to ensure future generations are not as reckless as the Brumby administration and the corporations now festering the corridors of Spring Street. If the ‘Alliance’ is not held accountable via standard government protocols and audits and cant demonstrate real value for people and the planet, maybe they should play another game and rate themselves on basic science…oh yes, and water does tend to run better and more easily down hill!

Recent Media:

Water wasted in public housing, The Age – March 21, 2009

Court threat over FOI request – The Australian March 21, 2009.Water policy based on flawed figures – Kenneth Davidson – The Age 25 Sept, excerpt:

THE wheels have fallen off the Brumby Government’s rationale for spending $4 billion on a desalination plant at Wonthaggi and the north-south pipeline and so supply Melbourne with an additional 225 gigalitres of water.

When the MMBW was split up into Melbourne Water and three retailers, its engineering and planning skills and its corporate memory were blown away and the planning function was in effect transferred by the politicians to the developers and the big end of town.

Little wonder we have disasters such as the Brooklands Green estate development in Cranbourne. But at least what is going on here cannot remain hidden. Not so with water — the stench isn’t so obvious…
The water debate has been starved of the facts a good government confident of its policies would ensure were put into the public domain.

Further Information:

Plug the Pipeline Campaign site

The catchment detox game – great for kids and confused adults as well.

Recent Media:

The case of why water and corporations don’t mix: Falling use pushing up water prices – The Age, January 3, 09.