No Backdown on Dam

Article excerpt

Byline: Bill Hoffman

THE Queensland government has refused to acknowledge its Traveston Dam project was flawed policy, saying it failed only because of the content of federal environment minister Peter Garrett's mind.

Minister for infrastructure and planning Stirling Hinchliffe said the government had aprofessional, scientific and engineering advice supporting a dam at Traveston Crossing as the cheapest and most reliable way of properly planning for a growing population, for future drought and for climate changea.

He rejected any suggestion those involved in pursuing the construction of the $1.8 billion dam should be held accountable for the project's failure to secure approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

aEven such quality advice could not know the mind of the federal environment minister,'' Mr Hinchliffe said.

However, several months before Mr Garrett handed down his decision rejecting the dam, state auditor general GG Poole warned of asignificant uncertaintya regarding Queensland Water Infrastructure's (QWI) assessment that the 1200 conditions imposed as part of the environmental impact statement could be met.

Mr Poole identified an amount of $168.821 million that was exposed.

On December 4, Mr Hinchliffe listed the actual figure at $265 million.

Asked this week whether the government would release a detailed account of all money spent on the project, Mr Hinchliffe said athe commonwealth government's decision not to approve the Traveston Crossing Dam project required the state to budget for a payment in 2009-10 of $265 million to Queensland Water Infrastructure Pty Ltd, representing the amount of expenditure on the dam project considered to be non-recoverablea.

Mr Hinchliffe provided no detailed breakdown of that amount, saying only that $150 million had gone in aland related transaction and preconstruction costs, including work on the environmental impact statement and geotechnical work, $90 million in financing costs and $25 million to cover ongoing costs in 2009-10, including the land sale program (including funding the stamp duty and legal costs for purchasers), and finance and corporate costs of QWIa. …