Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Howard endorses Brisbane IPR Scheme

If you’ve been following the development of water recycling plans in South East Queensland, you will know that the Beattie Government has been requesting support from the Commonwealth Government to help fund the Western Corridor Recycled Water Project.

The project involves building a pipeline between six wastewater treatment plants in Brisbane and Ipswich to three advanced water treatment plants. The water would then be delivered to two major power stations, industry and farmers, as well as supplementing the drinking water supply from Wivenhoe Dam.

The Commonwealth Government has set up the National Water Commission (NWC) to assist with funding for important iconic (or at least innovative) projects. Federal Environment Minister (and Water Minister) Malcolm Turnbull has the job of overseeing NWC decisions and activities.

Throughout the last few months, the Commonwealth Government have been suggesting that they may support the Western Corridor project, but have consistently argued that insufficient financial information had been provided in order for them to make a decision. As Turnbull told the Sunday Mail last week:

"From the outset we have asked for a complete set of financials for the project, which includes an up-to-date estimate of construction costs, operating costs as well as revenues" and "We need to know the impact on water prices from the proposed grant and who it will benefit. The major customer for the Western Corridor Project will be several State Government-owned power stations, so it is not clear whether the grant will actually benefit Brisbane's residential water users."

The political stand-off appeared to come to an end today with Prime Minister John Howard and Turnbull pledging to support the project. The Courier Mail reports that the Commonwealth Government will invest $408 million in the $1.7 billion recycled water pipeline.

Mr Howard said "I want the project to go ahead. I want it to be a success".

Not surprisingly, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie welcomed the announcement. He said "That's great news for two million Australians who are battling the worst drought in their history - it's a big win for Queensland".

I’m not sure whether the NSW Government have applied for Commonwealth assistance for their $1.9 billion seawater desalination plant at Kurnell. However, it remains to be seen whether such support would be forthcoming.

ANZAC Day tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll wish anyone a “happy ANZAC Day”, but at least try to find a moment to reflect on the 8000 diggers who lost their lives. Or perhaps the full 60,000 diggers who died during WWI. Or else the (at least) 8 million soldiers from all countries who died. To that you can add the countless more civilians. Hmmm... why not just think about the stupidity and futility of war in general? Happy ANZAC Day indeed.


Anonymous said...

John Howard has only said this because Kevin Rudd said he would pay for half of the pipeline if (when) he gets elected.

I have heard promises from little johnny before. Is this a core or non-core promise?

Annette said...

Stuart, did the NWC co-fund the Perth desalination plant?

Stuart Khan said...

Hello Annette,

No. The first funding announcements from the NWC’s ‘Water Smart Australia’ programme were in May 2005. By that time, the Perth desal plant was well under construction. You can see a full list of funded projects here.

Wendy said...

Stuart, I guess that you won't claim any expertise in costing recycled water projects but isn't it a bit odd for mayor Thorley to claim she can build one for around $70 million and premier Beattie is spending upwards of $1.7 billion building three of them. Now they may be bigger overall but the $70 million for Toowoomba's is looking more and more ridiculous.

Stuart Khan said...

Hi Wendy,

You are correct about me not claiming any expertise in costing recycled water projects. So I can't really give you a valid opinion on whether either of the Toowoomba or SEQ schemes was realistically priced. However, I think a few general observations are worth considering:

- Given that Toowoomba City Council were requesting Commonwealth and State Government funds, it seems unlikely to me that they would have knowingly underquoted the amount of money required.

- The difference between the SEQ scheme and the proposed Toowoomba scheme is much more than the number of advanced water treatment plants involved. The scale of the SEQ scheme is much much larger. Furthermore, the amount of pipeline and tunnelling (including under the Brisbane River to Gibson Island) required for SEQ is quite enormous and this will certainly be a major component of the overall costs.

- You will have noticed that there are a relatively small number of construction firms involved in the various consortia bidding to construct the significant number of desalination and water recycling (including non-potable water recycling) projects around Australia. Demand for such construction services has rapidly outpaced growth in supply during the last few years and this has had a significant inflationary pressure. In other words, the price has risen markedly since 2005.

wendy said...

Except Thorley still thinks she can build it for $68 million. This amount excluded any place for the RO waste stream. While the seq grid is larger, if you look at the costings for the Bundama awt, it's pretty clear that Toowoomba's could never be built for $68 million.

Anonymous said...


Just in response to your interest in the variation of the costings between Toowoomba Recycled Water plant and the other 3.

With Regards to the other 3 that cost of 1.7 Billion which is under costed includes many many hundreds of miles of piping through to Roma up to Tarong,To Wivenhoe and perseverance and down to the Gold Coast to name just some.

Let me just say that Di Thorley seems to be the only one that thinks she has any idea on this and if she is getting information from the same people that helped her sell the water debate than what hope does she have.She is a lady that thinks she has got it and credit to her for what she may have done thats benefited the city???????? But if it were me i would be quoting different figures and i would have had a better response than her on the recycled water debate.I have studied it in depth and i have helped in the Building of Western Corridor.

Wendy in short if you want information that's credible DO NOT listen to Di Thorley.

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