Salt in the wound?

By William Cunniffe

The Facts on the Situation

In 2007 the State Government announced plans to develop a desalination plant on Victoria's south-east coast, near Wonthaggi. The project received Federal Government approval on March 20 and is due for completion in 2011.

With declining water reserves and drought conditions taking place, the Government has opted for a desalination plant as part of its plan to "drought proof" Melbourne. As desalination requires saltwater rather than fresh water, it will generate 150 billion litres of additional water each year - a third of Melbourne's annual water supply. It will be the largest plant of its kind in Australia.

Estimated to cost is more than $3 billion, the plant will be built and operated as a public-private partnership, or PPP. This means the Government will work in partnership with a company or group of companies (consortium) from the private sector.

An environment effects statement assessed the potential environmental impacts of the proposed development. Approval was given with some conditions.

Economic Benefits

The project is expected to create up to 4750 full-time equivalent jobs during construction, 150 full-time equivalent jobs during operation, $1 billion economic boost to Victoria during construction and increased spending in local areas by the construction workforce. The roads around the area will be upgraded and also a Fibre Optic Cable will be installed.

Possible Enviromental Concerns

serverl protected species could be at risk such as the orange bellied parrot,, the growling grass frog and the giant gippsland earthworm.

How this Decision was made

The disbanding of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works in 1992 transferred control over of the planning process regarding major water and sewerage construction projects to private developers. This process came under increased criticism during initial feasibility studies and assessments of Melbourne's water supply and the desalination plant.