Barr Knows Best?

Skidbladnir 26 August 2009 32

Who knows how to ensure that a major project is developed in accordance with 467 seperate Sections of ACT Law better than a man who has worked in the private sector as an account manager, media analyst and salesperson, and also former parliamentary adviser and Chief of Staff to a Labor Minister?


Apparently, with more 270 staff working for ACT Planning & Land Authority, the organisation still can’t be trusted to arrive at a reasonable decision on the single largest piece infrastructure the ACT has seen in years, so the Cotter Dam expansion has been called in by the Minister, Andrew Barr.

Who knew we had elected such sage and learned folk to the Assembly?

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32 Responses to Barr Knows Best?
imhotep imhotep 10:30 pm 03 Sep 09

I reckon they’ll end up going for a ‘GDE solution’. Build one side of the wall now, put some wacky artwork on top of it, and build the other half when they can flog off a bit more land.

Hey, it’s worked before!

Thumper Thumper 6:59 pm 03 Sep 09

We’ll probably end up with some half arsed dam something akin to the the GDE.

RayP RayP 2:37 pm 03 Sep 09

I have not been following this issue so my “comments” are questions.

Does the increase in cost of the Cotter Dam expansion change the ranking of the options – the comparative benefit-cost analysis?

What else could be done with $363 million rather than $120 million?

I am also wondering where the water is going to come from to fill the expanded dam. The basic problem seems to be that there is less water falling out of the sky.

Or is this not a problem in the Cotter catchment? Or is this more of a problem if the dam expansion costs $363 million?

Clown Killer Clown Killer 2:25 pm 03 Sep 09

I doubt that they really had second thoughts Housebound. The cabinet submission would have discussed a range of options with proceeding as planned with a bigger budget the most palatable. A massive amount of work (and money) has already been expended on the project – that’s a hard investment to walk away from.

The bit that I find amusing is that the people actually tasked with building the thing never thought that it would cost less than $360 Million – even back when ACTEW and the Stanhope government were bandying about the $120 Million budget. The Government had to blink because the partners in the Bulk Water Alliance were starting to pack their desks, having no intention of committing to a project that was (publically at least) so massively underfunded.

housebound housebound 1:08 pm 03 Sep 09

I hadn’t thought of it like that, but it was a big enough increase for ACTEW to think twice about proceeding – and the initial estimate, by ACTEW’s own admission – left a lot of things out. I wonder how the other tenderers might respond to this (in their thoughts, if not in deed).

Before jumping to any conclusions, I reckon they should release any analysis to show the benefit-cost, because it must now be at least less attractive, if not marginal (or they wouldn’t have had second thoughts).

Thumper Thumper 12:26 pm 03 Sep 09

The project was first estimated to cost $120 million but in June ACTEW indicated it could reach $246 million.

Now they say the final price tag will be $363 million.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 11:13 am 03 Sep 09

It’s interesting to see that ACTEW have now gone public with what they believe to be a more accurate estimate of the cost of the enlarged cotter dam: $360 Million apparently.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 5:45 pm 27 Aug 09

Sorry Clown Killer – I should’ve been more clear. I wasn’t referring to any of your posts (I agree with you wholeheartedly on this matter) but to Skid.

Thoroughly Smashed Thoroughly Smashed 5:08 pm 27 Aug 09

Ooh, quoting Clarkson when you “criticise” the environmental movement cuts right to the bone!

housebound housebound 5:07 pm 27 Aug 09

The trouble with waiting for an election for any sort of accountability is just that – our elected leaders need to be accountable all the time.

This is the point of having a parliament, with any luck, the non-government parties can overrule the government before it does too many stupid things that hurt communities.

Making communities wait for four years befor undoing any damage might not be enough for the people who have to live with the consequences. For example, should David Hicks have had to wait for an imminent election to be returned to Australia, or do you think it would have been better to let him back (or not) on the basis of merit years earlier?

Sometimes I convince myself that democracy is not really all we make it out to be, but that’s another story.

But back to the dam – even if it is a massive fail, then you can be sure that, given the scale of the project, it won’t come out in the next election and, even if it did, this labor town won’t vote too many of those labor pollies out.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 2:13 pm 27 Aug 09

Oh something’s definitely going to go wrong WMC. As I mentioned earlier the construction and engineering outfits involved in the project are convinced that there’s not a chance in hell that it can be built for $200 million.

But in terms of leading a lynch mob – you’ve got the wrong man. Once every four years is ample an opportunity to cast judgement on our civic leaders. If the issue is still hot at the next election then it will be reflected at the ballot box, if not then I guess the whole thing will just be another example of sort of eco-mentalist nonsense subscribed to by so many dimwits in this town.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 12:49 pm 27 Aug 09

If something went wrong, you’d be the first to point the finger at Barr to take the fall. If Barr tried to shift blame to his ‘expert staff’, you’d be first in the stret with a torch in one hand and a noose in the other.

housebound housebound 12:43 pm 27 Aug 09

Of course, that assumes that politicians are indeed ‘accountable’, other than once every four years (in the ‘safe’ party in terms of re-election).

Clown Killer Clown Killer 11:52 am 27 Aug 09

RayP, the EIS has been done to death. Barr’s certainly not circumventing anything on that front. In addition to the local ACTPLA requirements they’ve also had to go through the Commonwealth process as well. It’s a telling point that they didn’t receive a single submission in relation to the project as a result of the EPBC process.

I think that it’s far better to have a publically accountable elected representative calling the shots than some back-room bureaucrat or a so-called ‘independent’ body that can run its own agenda.

RayP RayP 11:51 am 27 Aug 09

Thanks for that correction Caf.

caf caf 11:13 am 27 Aug 09

RayP, the EIS and EIS Assessment Report have been tabled in the LA, so they’re public.

RayP RayP 11:00 am 27 Aug 09

What seems to be missing in the Barr process is the public’s role in protecting the public interest. It neglects the role of the Environment Impact Assessment process in getting the environmental issues out in front of the public.

I think a better model, one which has been in place in WA, is one where an EIS is prepared and is then released for public comment and then an independent Environmental Protection Authority makes a public report with public recommendations. Then the Minister makes a decision, but in the context of the public EIS and the public EPA report and recommendations.

The Barr process seems to be one where the Minister makes decisions on the basis of internal advice from his Department. I find it surprising that Caf, Chewy14 and others have such confidence in Ministers and public servants to make decisions in the public interest.

(PS: the WA EPA and the EIS process tends to get shunted about with each change of government. The ALP in WA has tended to adopt the independent and public process.)

Clown Killer Clown Killer 9:10 am 27 Aug 09

Banging on about a failure of due process only attains relevance once it can established that the Minister is acting outside of the process as described in the relevant legislation … oh wait a minute, call in powers are clearly defined in the legislation, but that would make them part of the due process …

It’s also pretty easy to try and paint this as a lack of confidence in ACTPLAs ability to deliver the goods … if you ignored the very likely possibility that ACTPLA has recommended that the Minister use his call in powers.

The big issue here is surely that fact that the Government is still referring to the expanded Cotter Dam as a $200 million project when the members of the Bulk Water Alliance that are at the pointy end of the engineering and construction are privately adamant that you’re only going to get a little over half a dam for that sort of money … methinks that Minister Barr’s performances at future estimates committees is going to make rather interesting viewing.

chewy14 chewy14 8:32 am 27 Aug 09

The planning process needs to be changed for big infrastructure or other large projects. As Caf says the Enviromental Assessment and EIS has already been completed and assessed. I don’t really like Barr, but he’s not making this decision randomly on a whim, he does have access to all the information available. For projects as important as this there has to be a way to shorten or improve the process.

And anyway the dam still has to be passed by Peter Garrett.

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