Saturday, January 05, 2008

the sugarloaf pipeline, no ees for yarra ranges

I was greatly disappointed to learn that an Environment Effects Statement (EES) will not be required for the Sugarloaf Pipeline, as announced by Planning Minister Justin Madden in late December, 2007.

Having reviewed all the information from Melbourne Water I have concluded that an Environment Effects Statement is not required for the Sugarloaf Pipeline,” Mr Madden said.

The flexible alignment of the pipeline means potential environmental effects can be avoided or mitigated as has been the case with the construction of other pipelines in Victoria including the Goldfields Superpipe and the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline which didn’t require an EES.”

The study area through the Shire of Yarra Ranges for the project covers a north/south corridor between 2 and 4 kilometres wide from Mt Slide to Sugarloaf Reservoir. The region is characterised by:
> High value conservation areas including the Toolangi State Forest, waterways, wetlands and stands of significant indigenous vegetation.
> High quality agricultural land.
> Yarra Valley tourism including vineyards and bed and breakfast style accommodation.
> Townships including Yarra Glen, Dixons Creek and Steels Creek.
> Cultural and heritage values.

I hope the Minister is true to his word and the alignment of the pipeline does avoid any environmental impacts in the Shire. From the information given to council I have fundamental concerns about the short and long term impact of this project on the region. The construction phase incorporates a disturbance corridor some 20 to 30 metres wide, which will have an immediate and detrimental impact. Restrictions on the future use of the easement will reduce the opportunity for rehabilitation and alter the way the land can be used in the longer term thereby permanently affecting the character of the region.

Threats in terms of damage to waterways and further fragmentation of remnant vegetation and fauna habitat cannot be mitigated with rehabilitation and offset planting. The short term disruption and the impact of the restricted use of easements will have a long lasting impact on the agricultural, wine production and tourism activities in the region.

Council has no control of the planning process, it has been taken out of our hands. As the level of government closest to the community I have a high degree of concern about the project as does our community. Given the sensitivity of our precious environment in Yarra Ranges I hope that the Minister reconsiders the alignment, it is paramount that the pipeline's flexibility avoids any environmental impacts rather than mitigate them

It is unfortunate that the state government is taking this direction to secure water for Melbourne, there are many other ways to secure our water future; like embracing water sensitive design principles, capturing stormwater, providing better incentives to retrofit existing buildings, meeting water efficiency targets and reusing storm water.

Pipelines, Desal plants, logging our precious water catchments are not the long term solution to water supply for Melbourne.

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