Desalination plant bill will take decades to pay off

desalwaterplant

Governments no doubt love how they can make taxpayers foot the bill for their own mistakes

Back in 2007, under the influence of people like Tim Flannery who implied that the dams may never fill again, the then Victorian Labor government commissioned the southern hemisphere’s largest desalination plant at Wonthaggi in the state’s south-east.

In reality, Victoria was in the middle of one of Australia’s regular droughts, which broke in 2010 as it always does. Since it opened in 2012, the desalination plant has been unused.

While this was one of many desalination plants built around the country (see the results here and here), this one was particularly notorious for its $6 billion construction cost, obscenely generous working conditions and alleged involvement of undesirable elements. If the construction costs weren’t bad enough, the repayment terms negotiated by the government amounted to $18 billion over the 27 years to 2039 – and that is without ordering any water. Yes, if you actually want any water it costs extra.

Today’s Herald Sun reports that Melbourne Water has proposed that repayments now be spread over 60 years rather than 27 years, to allow household water bills to be reduced by a total of $100 over the next five years. This proposal sounds suspiciously like toll road operator Transurban’s plan to build some roads and tunnels in Melbourne’s west in exchange for extending tolls on its flagship CityLink project from 2035 to 2050.

Forcing our grandchildren and great grandchildren to pay, so that water bills can be cut in the lead-up to the 2018 state election is a shocking idea. This proposal should be rejected, and taxpayers in other states alert to any similar proposals in the future.

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