Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Hansard 2008-06-12 Auditor General Report - Pipelines

On 12 June 2008, Mr Peter Kavanagh MLC for Western Victoria commented on the Auditor-General Report on the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline and the Goldfields Superpipe.
Mr Kavanagh expressed concern that other superior alternatives to supplying water to Bendigo and Ballarat were not pursued by the government and detailed some of the adverse affects on the property of the farmers located on the pipeline route.
Mr Kavanagh’s comments in Parliament on Hansard are below:

Title: Auditor-General: Piping the System -- Incorporating the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline and the Goldfields Superpipe
Activity: Statements on Reports
Date: 12 June 2008
Page: 2270

Auditor-General: Piping the System -- Incorporating the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline and the Goldfields Superpipe

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- The goldfields super-pipe was constructed to avert the prospect of Bendigo and Ballarat running out of drinking water. It seems to me that there were superior alternatives available, which included the construction of dams or at least a weir in the Otways with a view to using some of the 93 per cent of the most reliable water supply in Victoria that now flows into the sea. These options and others were rejected -- largely, it seems to me, because of a misplaced ideological opposition by the government to new dams.

Although it has been alleged in public that the Democratic Labor Party was trying to stop the construction of the super-pipe, this was never the case. The truth is that I put a lot of effort into getting the best deal possible for affected farmers.

These efforts met with some success and the pipe was laid deeper than was originally intended. This is important to allow

Page 2271

farmers to use heavy equipment over the pipe with confidence. Finally a much better insurance deal than was originally intended was offered to the farmers. I think it is fair to say that, as a result of vigilance and frequent complaints and requests for action to ministers, more care was expended to meet farmers' concerns than would otherwise have been the case.

The Auditor-General's report Piping the System concluded that the goldfields super-pipe has been well managed. While this may be the case in general, there were a considerable number of instances of mismanagement in the installation of the pipeline by contractors. In at least one case, to gain access to a farm contractors simply cut the electric fences, allowing cattle to escape and wander the district. This caused great distress and worry to the farmer concerned and necessitated the loss of days of work time in rounding up his cattle.

In spite of repeated, explicit demands by farmers that construction equipment not be taken between properties without it being thoroughly washed down, this was not always done. Some farms were needlessly exposed to the spread of weeds and other contaminants onto their properties. In a similar way, soil profiles were not always restored as they should have been. Farmers demanded the restoration of soil profiles and in a majority of cases this was done. In some cases, however, it was not done and some farmland has thus been degraded through the replacement of topsoil with subsoil.

There was at least one oil spill on farmland. Installation of the pipe also caused damage to pre-existing old pipes, causing flooding of crops on at least one farm and in another case cutting the supply of water essential to crops. This happened when temperatures were over 40 degrees and the crops were at real risk of being ruined. In both cases, repairs to pipes were not begun until more than 10 hours after the damage was first reported.

There are reasons to suspect that the amount of compensation being offered to each farmer depends more on the amount of noise that he makes rather than on the real cost to the landowner. Whilst the temptation is understandable, it is obviously bad policy.

Australia comprises many things -- its spirit and its people. Undoubtedly Australia is also the land on which we stand. We have the responsibility to preserve and protect our country, and this must surely include the land that is beneath our feet. The world is experiencing a sharp rise in food prices due to a shortfall in crop production. I do not believe this will prove to be a long-term crisis, but it emphasises the need to conserve farmland. The land adversely affected in the laying of the goldfields super-pipe included some of the best farmland in Victoria.

I express the hope that in implementing future projects, including the north-south pipe, the government will ensure that contractors act with more respect for the land and for landowners than was shown in some instances by those who installed the goldfields super-pipe.


Peter Kavanagh MLC
Member for Western Victoria
Parliament of Victoria

"La Cabine"
2nd Floor
1 Yarra Street
Geelong VIC 3220

Ph: 03 5222 1503
Fax: 03 5222 8677

Email: peter.kavanagh@parliament.vic.gov.au
Blog: http://peterkavanagh.blogspot.com/
Site: http://www.dlpwestvic.org/

INDEX OF BLOG ENTRIES is located at the bottom of this page.