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Desalination plant, Wonthaggi

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[September 2009]

Watershed Victoria still campaigning on the Desal plant

Both banks have signed on to the "Equator
Principles", a comprehensive statement of responsibility to invest only
in projects that have no damaging environmental and social consequences.

The National and Westpac Banks espouse their environmental
credentials in relation to investment decisions for the money we place
in their care. Yet now they are allowing the desalination plant to go
ahead, preventing better and cheaper options from an environmental
point of view, from going ahead, by backing the desalination plant’s

We would love FoE members to help keep the pressure up, asking for
an explanation of the banks' financial involvement and a comprehensive
environmental impact study by the banks BEFORE financially backing the
energy guzzling desal plant. It's a mistake both in terms of local
environmental impact and climate change.

Please ring the NAB Corporate Responsibility Officer on 03-86342734
or Westpac on 132032 and ask for the Corporate Responsibility Officer.
More details and form letters are on our website under the "writing letters" section.

Issues you may want to raise:
* shortcomings of environmental assessment study
* the consortium aren’t committing to proper monitoring of marine effects
* so much water we won’t build the sustainable alternatives
* financial risk to bank
* bad investment
* what could go wrong (soils, substructure of area-mines etc, size of project, water temperature, more ?
* reputation as environmenatlly responsible may be lost
* backlash
* env and social impacts -traffic, housing, green tourism
* long-term damage to bank’s reputation

AquaSure announcement

For our response to the announcement  of AquaSure as the proponent (July 2009), check here.

A statement from FoE, August 2009:

It is clear that once the successful bid for building the desalination plant was announced, that the government hoped that opposition to the project would start to wane.

But is is very hard to walk away from opposing such a destructive and incredibly expensive project when there are so many better, cheaper and more job rich options on offer to meet our water needs.

Victoria continues to have many options to secure our water needs without the North South pipeline or desalination plant, and the government's insistence on proceeding with these expensive projects places them at odds with a substantial and growing segment of the community. Green sweeteners, such as some new wind energy production to power the desal plant may comfort some, but most people who are tracking water policy can see through this diversion.

The desalination plant will lock us into a high impact and expensive future and pull current renewable energy production, which should be used to displace energy production from coal. If the government is prepared to pay tax payers money to the BassWater consortium to offset the cost of preparing their unsuccessful bid for the desal plant, surely they can pay out the AquaSure consortium, and get back to serious, low impact, lower cost, job rich options to meet our water needs.

Friday 31 July, 2009

Desal plant locks us into high impact water futures

The announcement by the Brumby Government of the desalination plant proponents will lock Victoria into a high emissions, high impact water future. The government has had ample opportunities to choose another, lower impact option for meeting our future water needs, and there is growing public sentiment against both the current proposals for the desalination plant and North South pipeline.

"This was the last opportunity for the state government to come to it's senses and opt for a lower impact, lower cost, more job rich water future for Victoria" said Friends of the Earth campaigns co-ordinator Cam Walker. "Proceeding with the plant locks our state into up to $4 billion dollars of public expenditure, which while providing large quantities of very expensive water, will effectively undermine future financial investment in better options."

"There are many lower impact options available.  The plant is deeply unpopular on the south Gippsland coast. The desal plant and North South pipeline project will undermine the imperative to implement longer term, sustainable options such as better recycling and re-use of water, capture of stormwater, roll out of water tanks and ensuring better water efficiency in all buildings".

“We are also concerned that the renewable energy offset planned for the desalination plant will undermine our efforts to achieve a rapid transition away from coal and into renewables. There is a limit to how much commercial scale renewable energy can be produced in the state in the short term. All new capacity should be displacing existing coal production. The massive energy requirements of the desal plant will divert capacity, undermining our ability to reduce the climate change impacts of our current energy production from coal. In addition, while the Premier has announced that AquaSure has committed to the construction of the 63 MW Oaklands wind farm, the plant’s energy use would actually require the construction of 270 MW of wind power capacity, more than 4 times the size of the Oaklands farm. If this extra energy is purchased from existing energy production it will further undermine efforts to develop a thriving renewable energy industry here in Victoria".

Further comment: Cam Walker 0419 338 047


basic information about the plant

(from Greenlivingpedia)

  • Household water bills are expected to double over the next five
    years to pay for a $4.9 billion water strategy to secure Melbourne's
    water supplies.
  • Estimated water production is 150 billion litres (150
    gigalitres) of fresh water per year, approximately a third of
    metropolitan Melbourne's needs based on 2007 consumption levels.
  • The plant is planned to be operations by the end of 2011.
  • It is intended that the plant will provide additional water to Melbourne, Geelong, Western Port and South Gippsland.
  • The plant is estimated to use about 90 mega watts (MW) of
    power from the grid, which translates to 2160MWh per day. While a
    commitment was made to use renewable energy to power the plant in an
    attempt to make it greenhouse neutral, it is likely the plant will be
    partly powered by a new co-located gas fired power station or from
    power from the grid from coal-fired power stations, both of which will
    produce significant greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The plant is expected to emit 200 million tonnes of brine to the ocean.
  • The plant will be constructed using a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and could end up being foreign owned.
  • The Bracks government opposed the construction of a
    desalination plant during the 2006 Victorian State election, but
    reversed its position after the election and committed to building it.
  • There was no proper public consultation process that provided input to inform the Government decision to build the plant.
  • Significant energy (with associated greenhouse gas emissions)
    will be required to pump desalinated water from Wonthaggi to Melbourne.
  • More than 1.4 million tonnes of greenhouse gas will be
    pumped out during the construction of Victoria's proposed desalination
    plant, and another 1.2 million tonnes emitted each year once it starts
    boosting Melbourne's water supply.
  • Greenhouse emissions during the construction of the plant,
    and about 70,000 tonnes from waste decomposition and transport during
    its operation, will not be offset.
  • Using a two-headed marine structure extending up to two
    kilometres offshore, the plant will take in 480 billion litres of
    seawater and pump back 280 billion litres of saline concentration each


other groups working against the desalination plant at Wonthaggi:

watershed Victoria

Bass Coast Surfriders

current events

[above: in July 2009, we joined with Watershed Victoria to highlight the climate change impacts of the desalination plant].

You can sign the pledge against the plant at:


previous events


late June 2009: stay tuned for the imminent announcement of who has the contract to build the plant ... 


[above: community rally at the proposed site of the desalination plant, near Wonthaggi, May 2009]

Throughout 2009, the wonderful folks of Wonthaggi and the Gippsland coast have continued their campaign against the incredibly expensive desalination plant proposed for the South Gippsland coast.


March 2009

Federal approval of the desal plant

Garrett fails Victoria on desalination plant approval

Peak environment groups Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Environment Victoria have today joined local residents in condemning the Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s conditional approval of the desalination plant in Victoria.

Our release can be found here.

[above: community rally at the office of the water minister, Feb 2009]

update on Feb 6 community presence in Springvale

We all know that Melbourne is facing growing water stress. In response,
the state government has announced a desalination plant for the
Gippsland coast near Wonthaggi and the North - South pipeline, which
will pump water from the Goulburn River.

The pipeline and desal plant will be disasterous for our state.

Both these projects are being built for the benefit of Melbourne
people, so we should educate ourselves about the impacts of these
projects, as well as looking at the alternatives.

It is time to bring the message to the Minister for Water, Tim
Holding, and other key members of the state government that Melbourne
people want a sustainable water future.

There will be a peaceful and colourful community assembly outside
the electoral office of Victoria's water minister, Tim Holding, on
friday February 6.


We had a great presence outside the office on the 6th, with music,
speeches, somegood conversations with locals and letterboxing. The
local response was resoundingly positive.

There are images from the event -from the FoE Australia website and independent sites are available here here and here.


TUESDAY FEB. 3, Parliament House, Melbourne @ 11:30 a.m.
Rally For Democracy
; the Desalination Project is UNDEMOCRATIC and we demand answers!!!

A big Melbourne media event with inspiring celebrity speakers. A show of strength and resolve.

Called by Watershed Victoria

Details - Stephen Cannon, 0407811778.

[above: community rally at Kilkunda beach, 2008]

Jan 2009

Celebrity surf challenge

Fresh water thinking for Victoria
Kilcunda Beach. Sat. 3rd Jan. 2009. 10am - 1pm.

Presented by Bass Coast Board Riders, supported by FoE and other groups.


NO DESAL  CAMP 3-11th January

Come and experience the beautiful Bass Coast before its marine ecology and foreshore reserve is wrecked forever by the world's biggest desalination factory.

The week willl include community education on issues with the desalination plant, our alternatives and why the Government's water policy is flawed. Swim at nearby beaches, make banners and join discussion groups on the campaign - how can we wake Melbourne up to the damaging future privatisation of our water?

Get Real on Climate Change - Celebrity Surf Challenge is taking place at Kilcunda Beach from 10-1 on Saturday 3rd January. See for more info.

Campsite on the Bass Highway,  5 kilometres bike ride/walk to the desal site and surf beaches at the mouth of the Powlett River, between Kilcunda and Dalyston.

Camp will have 2 caravans, toilet and water. Bring musical instruments, tents, food, cooking equipment. Be prepared for all weathers, as the site is fairly exposed. No fires, no pets. 

Transport : VLine buses come to Wonthaggi & Kilcunda daily at 9 am (9.40 on Saturdays) -  info :   Bikes can be carried on buses if contained in a box/pack. Trains go to Stoney Point on Mornington Peninsula - info :
Ferries from Stoney Point to Phillip Island - info : 03 95855730. We can pick you up from Wonthaggi or Kilcunda if you are bikeless with bags.

For more information on campaign :  or
For info and map of the site, email [email protected] or ring
Jessica 0407307231 or Chris 0419 556381

Supported by Friends of the Earth

the mouth of the Powlett River

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