The line in the sand
[from the Mornington Mail - 15th March 2001]
what point are governments driven to major capital expenditure? How will this
state government determine cost when a range of future options for
the Eastern Treatment Plant are put before it after October this year? The Clean
Ocean Foundation wants to ensure that this years decision which
could determine conditions at Boags Rocks for the next 25 years is not
one which sees the communitys expectation for a real environmental solution
compromised by the money. Environment Minister Sheryll Garbutt and the state
opposition need to hear loud and clear from peninsula people that we understand
the politics of money
and itll cost them if they dont understand
By James Clark-Kennedy
The major obstacle for change at the Boags Rock outfall is, of course, money.
Upgrading Melbournes sewerage treatment processes at the Eastern Treatment Plant to at least Tertiary Class A standard will take hundreds of millions. And inextricably linked to major capital expenditure by governments in the short term is the NIMTO principle.
Clean Ocean Foundation members say the NIMTO principle (Not in My Term of Office) has been a very real obstacle for bringing the South Eastern Treatment Plants operations up to contemporary, enlightened expectations of environmental protection.
25 years of governmental inaction, the organisation has declared this week a
war on NIMTO politics and is looking to enlist peninsula voters to the
a big ask - the hundreds of millions of dollars needed arent likely to
enthuse any election campaign manager for the major parties. Those dollars arent
going to get anyone across town quicker, nor change the Melbourne skyline.
wont immediately buy tangible gains for a majority of the states
voters. Except us of course, peninsula people those who derive what the
EPAs licence calls beneficial use of the local beaches and
marine environment which are sullied by the outfall.
said before in this series, demand for change wont come from Melburnians
who are simply happy to see the stuff disappear from their toilets. Its
our community, our ocean playground the pollution spills into. Its from
here that the cry foul must be heard.
The big sewerage
plant upgrade investment will, however, buy long term gains for all of the state.
So, the Clean
Ocean Foundation is gearing up for a hard sell on the positives of spending
argument is simple politics: the peninsula community is more enlightened about
the inadequacy of that treatment plant; more educated about the risk to human
health the outfall poses in its current state; and it may be worth at least
a couple of seats at the ballot box for the government which understands that
were worth the money.
point is that long term statewide political gain might eventuate for a government
which is as enlightened as our community about the possibilities for better
treatment of the 880 million litres of effluent which go out at Boags Rock each
four-year term of the political process inhibits any long-term infrastructure
development, says Clean Ocean Foundations Sally Mitchell, but
the water issue has become the most important issue on the agenda in 2001.
politicians did some triple bottom line calculations they would reveal the amount
of money to be spent dealing with our water crisis in the next 10 years will
far outweigh any capital allocated in the current term of government.
a near potable quality of effluent, would pave the way for major uptake on re-use
above the 20 per cent Melbourne Water should achieve by 2010, but which
is only achieving about one per cent now.
This increase in re-use expectations has positive statewide implications for our precious water resources.
Clean Ocean Foundation hopes such projections of ramifications for state water supply will be presented to the government in the case for tertiary treatment presented in October.
of inaction and Band-Aid decisions made in an attempt to protect the bottom
line have delivered the crisis we have in water issues today, says Ms
waste of 880 million litres of effluent per day in Victoria is an indicator
of the short term thinking endemic in the political system.
total outfall issue at Gunnamatta incorporating health effects of beach users,
waste of natural resources, damage to the marine environment is a state crisis.
has been occurring for years and still the decisions are delayed. Most people
even the EPA and Melbourne Water know there is a problem but use the financial
aspects and bureaucracy to justify inaction.
Its time to draw the line in the sand and invoke the basic principles of democracy: the community demands a sustainable solution.
real reasons to be concerned about the looming presentation of future options.
Weve been lumbered with the current, inadequate outfall engineering, through the compromise of the 70s.
In 1975 the
Boags Rocks effluent outfall was commissioned by the Melbourne Metropolitan
Board of Works (MMBW).
difficulties, engineering concerns or just plain financial mismanagement prevented
the outfall from being extended out into Bass Strait, as was initially planned,
Ms Mitchell said.
In the 1960s
when the Eastern Treatment Plant (ETP) at Carrum was in the planning process,
Gunnamatta was not the preferred option for the disposal of the effluent.
proposal was to extend a pipe into Port Phillip Bay at Carrum. This option was
cancelled, perhaps as a result of two reasons: The MMBW decided that it was
environmentally inappropriate; the building and construction unions placed a
black ban on the construction until a better option was found.
and, then, unpopulated Gunnamatta beach area was decided upon. In the early
1970s Gunnamatta was accessible by a long, unmade road which was often blown
out by sand drifts.
rather than cost cutting in the engineering, might have prevented the outfall
being built so as to spill onto a beach in what has since become one of Victorias
most visited national parks.
governmental baulking on the issue can also be seen in recent changes to the
licence contains a clause which might be perceived as recognition of the inadequacy
of the original structure.
It calls for
the licence holder to undertake and complete an investigation and consultation
program, to evaluate treatment, re-use and outfall extension options to improve
environmental performance by June 30, 1998.
The EPA has
since changed that condition to give Melbourne Water until October this year
for the plan, and 2002 for the start of construction of any improvements.
Ocean Foundation says its up to peninsula people to ensure the snooze
button isnt hit once again, and that the future option chosen in
October is not another Band Aid.