The legacy of Tim Flannery..White elephant desalination plants
South Australia’s government is facing calls to explain why its new $1.8 billion desalination “white elephant” is to be mothballed, possibly until the next drought.
The desalination plant at Port Stanvac may be left in “standby mode” while the city is able to rely on cheaper water from the River Murray and local reservoirs, SA Water chief John Ringham announced on Thursday.
“The Adelaide desalination plant is South Australia’s insurance policy against future droughts and provides a flexible, climate independent water source, so we will continue to maintain it to a level where it can be switched on when we need it,” Mr Ringham said in a statement.
The desalination plant was proposed by the Labor government in a move to match a policy from the Liberal opposition at a time when South Australia, and much of eastern Australia, was in the grip of a severe drought.
Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond said on Thursday the state government had bungled the project from the start.
Upper house Greens MP Mark Parnell described the decision to leave the plant on standby as “an absolute farce”.
“Taxpayers have been forced to pay for a hyper-expensive white elephant that will now slowly rust while we continue to drain the Murray,” Mr Parnell said.
Federal SA MP Simon Birmingham said it wasn’t just state taxpayers who deserved an explanation, because federal Labor had pumped $328 million into the plant, including $228 million to expand it.
The plant was initially planned to produce up to 50 gigalitres a year, but its capacity was later doubled to 100gl with extra federal government funding.
“All Australians deserve to know why this grotesque cash splash should not now be considered just another example of Labor waste and mismanagement alongside pink batts, school halls and green loans,” the Liberal senator said in a statement.
Mr Ringham said SA Water was anticipating the desalination plant may not need to be operated in the upcoming regulatory period after the completion of its 24-month warranty.
The regulatory period is scheduled to run from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2016 while the warranty period will begin next year.
VICTORIA’S beleaguered desalination plant has suffered another setback with the Baillieu government declaring the state will not need its water for 2012-13, the plant’s first official year of operation.
Pointing to healthy and rising dam levels, water savings by Melburnians, and the fact that the plant will not be completed by its June 30 deadline, Water Minister Peter Walsh has confirmed the government had opted for zero water in its first formal order to the plant operator, the AquaSure consortium.
News that Victoria will not take one drop of water initially from the multibillion-dollar plant follows the Baillieu government’s decision to mothball another expensive new water source, the $750 million north-south pipeline.
“Melbourne’s dams are holding almost 1200 gigalitres (currently 64.8 per cent full) and we are coming into the winter/spring filling season with wet catchments,” Mr Walsh said.
The government’s decision against buying water is a further blow to the finances and image of the desalination project.
The New South Wales Government has confirmed Sydney’s desalination plant will be shutting down at the end of the week, but has rejected suggestions the facility has been a waste of money.
The plant cost $2 billion to build and has completed a two-year proving period, but will lie idle from Sunday.
Finance Minister Greg Pearce says it could be around three years before the facility operates again.
“At the moment of course the dams are full, so it won’t go back on until they drop below 70 per cent, and then the desalination plant operates until they’re up to 80 per cent again,” Mr Pearce said.
“The fact that the desal plant will be turned off from the first of July will save Sydney Water customers $50 million a year, but we’ll still have the security if we ever or when we eventually need to turn the desalination plant back on again.
“We’re still paying $16 million a month and that pays the actual cost of building the desalination plant and the associated pipeline.”
Greens MP John Kaye says the desalination plant is a massive white elephant.
“The desalination plant is a terribly expensive way of meeting population growth and completely unnecessary,” Dr Kaye said.
“If it were needed for a drought sometime in the future, then it should be built sometime in the future.
“The Greens estimate that households spent $80 million on running the desalination plant over the last two years. Not only was the desalination plant unnecessary, but the majority of that water has now flowed over the spillway at Warragamba.
THE troubled Tugun Desalination Plant is now a $1.2 billion white elephant, with the Bligh Government also forced to mothball hundreds of millions of dollars worth of other plants in a desperate bid to cut water bills.
The Sunday Mail can reveal the Government has also decided to take an axe to the bloated water bureaucracy and sack highly paid water executives under a new strategy to reduce hikes to household bills by $5 next year.
The desal plant on the Gold Coast, which has been plagued by rusting and cracking problems since it opened last year, will be shut down early next year, along with half the $380 million Bundamba treatment plant and the new $313 million plant at Gibson Island.
QLD Gold Coast – mothballed
NSW Kurnell – shutdown
WA Perth – 2 in use..but then again..Perth is to be the first ghost city of the new millenium right Tim?
VIC Wonthaggi – not required..no orders for water
SA Pt Stanvac – mothballed and the Pt Paterson plant wont happen as BHP have delayed the roxby downs expansion
this is how i will remember flannery..as the man who scared our governments into creating these white elephants because the drought would never end and the murray would dry up..it didnt happen..so who is sending the bill to tims house?