Wednesday, April 09, 2008

the trouble with the pipeline....

In February Council resolved to oppose the pipeline until claimed water savings could be demonstrated, we are yet to see details of these savings.

In March Council resolved that our submission to the PIA seek a construction zone easement limited to 10 metres.

The panel hearings are currently underway as part of the process in response to the Project Impact Statement (PIA) released for the North South (Sugarloaf Interconnector) Pipeline. I have so many concerns in relation to this project it's difficult to know where to start. I attended the Shire presentation to the hearing at Yering on 8th April where the following matters were highlighted as significant, outstanding and unresolved issues:
  1. The PIA relies very heavily on further detailed reports to finalise the works, this makes it very difficult to respond adequately and curtails the ability of the Shire (or the community) to respond comprehensively to the project
  2. The further reports alluded to have not been completed so cannot be commented on by either the shire or the community
  3. There is a need for an independent audit group to be established to oversee the implementation of the project
  4. There is a need for a comprehensive communication strategy; to date communication about the project has been a major shortfall
  5. Construction and final easements are massive, currently construction easements are anticipated to be 30mts with final easements being 15mts
  6. It is still not clear whether the project will apply for planning permits through the shire or the minister will amend the planning scheme to exempt the project from planning scheme requirements
  7. Loss of significant stands of vegetation, both in forested areas (Toolangi State Forest) and on roadside reserves
  8. Fragmentation of habitat and impact on many threatened species
  9. Loss of food and shelter for fauna and disturbance of breeding habits
  10. Loss of canopy and understorey connections for fauna
  11. Irreplaceable loss of large and medium old trees
  12. Significant levels of construction traffic, noise and dust
  13. Little consideration to compensating the broader community for impacts which go beyond direct compensation to affected landowners
  14. Lack of detail with regard to proposed crossing methods for the 187 waterway crossings
  15. Lack of assessment of all waterways, the 144 waterways that have been assessed have only been via roadside inspection and there has been no consideration that assessments have been undertaken during a period of extended drought
  16. Energy required to pump water - this should be renewable energy
  17. The sustainability assessment gives far too much weighting to economic impacts (at 60%), the weighting should be equally distributed between environment, social and economic impacts
  18. Shire roads will deteriorate with construction traffic movements, estimated at 40,000 over the life of the project without including minor traffic movements estimated at around 10,000 traffic movements
  19. There has been little effective communication and liaison between the Alliance (project managers) and the Shire, this needs significant improvement
  20. Where will the excess fill be dumped?
  21. Will the roads and roadside assets (drains, signs and bus shelters) be reinstated after the project?
  22. Will dust suppression be applied to unmade roads, temporary access roads, stockpiles and disturbed areas?
  23. How adequately will traffic be managed during construction?
  24. Will the project operate 7 days a week?
  25. Will the pipeline be at a depth to allow for future council underground drainage?
  26. The impact on tourism will be great, currently tourism brings in around $330 million to the region, how will the community be compensated for both short and long term impacts?
  27. The value of agricultural production in this region (wine industry) is currently valued at $235mil per annum, 30% of this production is within 5 kilometers of the planned pipeline route

This list is by no means exhaustive, there are many matters of concern, this list highlights some of the local concerns. It does not begin to address alternate sources of water for Melbourne or the broader issues in relation to water security for Victoria.

When our Minister for Tourism claims there will no effect on tourism, he is wrong. Should this project go ahead, I hope the Minister takes the time to visit affected communities, brings his wallet and makes up for the shortfall that will happen as a consequence of this project.

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