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In June 2007, the Victorian Government released the State’s next stage water plan that was christened ‘Our water, our future’.
One strategy formulated is premised on the need to construct and operate a $3.1 billion desalination plan under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement1, with Powlett River located at Wonthaggi being identified as the preferred site for the desalination plant. This research aims to evaluate the justification for the project.
Employment is an aspect that ensures continuity of any society in a stable way. Economic statistics retrieved from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006) indicate that Wonthaggi District has an employment rate of 50.4% and when compared to larger Victorian region, unemployment in this district is estimated to be high2.
Employed people on the project will have a secure income that will enable them to meet their social, economic, and environmental needs.
Further, the area is going to be a fertile ground for entrepreneurship activities and this will promote self-employment, as more people will venture in trade activities, sustainable agriculture, and real estate development. Therefore, Victorian Desalination Project is perceived to be viable in ensuring economic benefits, and development of the region is realized3.
Social security is the ultimate goal for sustainability of any given society. It has been noted that Melbourne region and specifically the Wonthaggi area and Bass Coast Shire area have limited social infrastructures.
Outlined in its development plan, initiation of the project in the area is likely to result in upgrade of roads in the area ($12 million allocated); water supply is going to improve with proposed “$5 million pipeline connecting Wonthaggi, Inverloch and Cape Patterson to the desalination plant “4.
The project is further going to ensure provision of educational, interpretive facilities recreational and cultural assets. Social justification for the project can therefore base on assumption that, once the project starts operating, there is going to be: increased visitation to community activities and events, greater social interaction, and diversity and increased investment in social and commercial services in the area5.
Safe environments promote health well-being of an area and enable realization of other set goals in social-economic sphere. With the project, it is mandatory that there will be adoption of comprehensive environment policy framework that will enable the region to realize a completely coordinated preservation and protection of both terrestrial and marine environments of the area.
Environmental justification for the project can be attached to the role the project will play in terms of: management of saline concentration; protection of biodiversity and preservation of native vegetation; efficient use of resources and minimizing resource use through recovery maximization and recycling; and protecting air quality.
Economic, social, and environmental activities in Melbourne have been affected by long periods of drought. Nevertheless, with proposed Victorian Desalination Project, all indication point to an improvement and development of the area.
It is recommended that all stakeholders involved in the project should ensure there is thorough economic, social and environmental assessment of the project to ensure negative impacts are minimized and net community benefit of the project are maximized.
AquaSure. Victorian Desalination Project: Local benefits and initiatives, 2010. Web.
Bass Coast. Community Profile: Wonthaggi District. ID Consultancy PTY Ltd, 2007. Web.
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Capital Projects and Department of Treasure and Finance. Victorian Desalination Project: Partnerships Victoria Project Summary, Capital Projects Division, 2009. [Attached notes].
Mitchell, K, et al, Environmental Effects Act 1978: Victorian Desalination Project Environment Effects Statement, Ministry of Planning, 2008. [Attached notes].
1 Capital Projects and Department of Treasure and Finance, Victorian Desalination Project: Partnerships Victoria Project Summary (Capital Projects Division, 2009) p 4.
2 Bass Coast, Community Profile: Wonthaggi District (2007) p.1.
3 K Mitchell, N Wimbush, C Harty, G Lampe and G Sharpley, Environmental Effects Act 1978: Victorian Desalination Project Environment Effects Statement, Ministry of Planning, 2008, p 67.
4 AquaSure, Victorian Desalination Project: Local benefits and initiatives (2010) p.1.
5 K Mitchell, N Wimbush, C Harty, G Lampe and G Sharpley, ibid, p 218.