11 December 2008

Power station site selection complied with a bad process - Auditor General

| johnboy
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The ACT Auditor-General has announced the release of a report titled: “Proposal for a gas-fired power station and data centre – site selection process”

Note that even the Auditor-General is calling this beast a power station first.

Here are the key findings:

    — Government agencies complied with the existing Government processes, leading to the agreement on a site (Block 1671, District of Tuggeranong) for the proposed Canberra Technology City project. These processes, however, were not sufficiently robust to give confidence that the public interest was fully taken into account.

    — Under the current processes, the proponents have the sole responsibility to assess the best site for the proposed project and apply for a direct land sale. Government agencies did not formally assess and rank the relative merits of the proponents’ suggested sites against a clear set of criteria. A suitable site that meets the commercial needs of the proponents may not necessarily equate to the optimum site from the Territory’s point of view, when taking into account wider public interest criteria.

UPDATED: Zed has announced the Liberals will be attempting to amend the Bill greenlighting the new location. He’s also very pleased with the auditor-general.

Mr Stanhope on the other hand has declared the auditor-general to be “wrongheaded” on 666 this morning.

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CPR Inc has made its submission in response to GHD’s draft Environmental Impact Statement and a copy is available from its website:


Fair Enough Digga,

If you want to argue against the Studies’ veracity. That OK. Although there is a lot of research and science behind the models used in the studies.
As for your comment about the tip and airport generators.
They are not on your fossil fuel power station list because the map is for power stations >20MW.
It doesnt mean they arent power stations.
For someone complaining about semantics (communications facility vs power station), you should know this.

chewy14: Not proven. CPR’s submissions have shown the source data is flawed. All study results are therefore negated. Hence yet more studies to come from relocated site.

so, 54-11
Attacking me and not the issue of exactly what you are against, wins you the argument?
Are you against specifically:
Noise from this site? proven to be within acceptable limits even on the worst days.
NOx from this site? proven to be well within acceptable limits even on the worst days.
Traffic from this site? negligible
Any Power station in the ACT?
Any Large industry in the ACT?
Any Large Greenhouse emitting industry in the ACT?
If its the last couple thats OK, but if you want to attack this development, do it on technical grounds and not just because you dont like it?
The auditor general’s report specifically states it is not reviewing the actual merits of the proposal.

My agreement was with digga and deezagood, not chewy.

Agreed. On another thread, they were discussing Godwin’s Law, that when someone invokes the Nazis, they’ve automatically lost the argument.

I believe the same applies when the term Nimbies (or variation thereof) is trotted out – they have lost the argument and have resorted to name-calling to try to win. And by doing so, automatically lost it.

chewy13 did that, when his only case seems to be that the residents were uninformed (when in fact they were very aware of what was going on and made public submissions showing this).

Of course the site selection process was flawed, the auditor general’s report spells that out. Where have i argued against this and said the Auditor was uninformed.
This however says nothing about the actual proposal, or location’s merits.
Are you saying the documentation and studies contained in the DA were wrong?
What exactly are you arguing against then?:
The Site Selection Process?
Data centres in general?
Gas Power Stations?
Any Fossil Fuel Power Source?
Any Power Station?

But putting up signs saying “dont poison my children”, which people have done, is patently false and misleading.

deezagood: Hear, hear!

Daft, for others to marginalise their fellow citizens standing up for the greater populace – especially when the people standing up are right with reams of documented evidence. We’re trying to clean up the politics and the environment.

Win, win, win, win (politics, business, environment, community).
Just get it sorted out, for all Canberra’s benefit. Enough of the lies, misinformation, stress.

chewy14 said :

Spot on the money Grasshopper,
They have indeed made a mess of the whole thing from the start.
54-11, No commercial interest in the proposal, just sick of people i know, who live in Macarthur whinging about this proposal without even reading the DA.

And I am most decidedly sick of ignorant people, who haven’t read the DA, accusing Macarthur residents of being Nimbys. If the Macarthur people were Nimbys, they would be celebrating the move of power station out of their ‘back yard’ right now, instead of continuing to work hard against the extremely dodgy dealings, back-handd deals and faulty processes surrounding this whole debacle.

Ah, now I get it, chewy. When a residents’ group mount a persuasive campaign against an inappropriate development, and they are “uninformed”.

Those residents have a logical and well-thought through position which is publicly available (more than most of what Stanhope was up to) and convinced two of the three political parties that the proposal stank Those paryies must therefore be “uninformed”.

The independent Auditor-General lambastes the various players in her report, which vinicates what the residents said. She must therefore be

The various players have generally accepted the findings of Phu Tam – they must likewise be “uninformed”.

That must make you the only “informed” person commenting on this process.

Well done, chewy.

chewy14: Check your facts. Here is the Federal Government’s register of fossil-fuel based power stations that are proposed:

Follow the link for Proposed Power Stations (yes: Power Stations) and you’ll find our little beauty in the list along with others (total of 3 listed for ACT). You won’t see the tip’s generators, the airport’s generators or others.

Included in this list is the large peaking power station of around 600MW planned for Williamsdale, about 20km south of Canberra. In addition, the airport just turned on the first of 4 gas-fired tri-generation units. Co-gen/tri-gen aside; these are all polluting natural-gas burning turbines – and they’re static sources; not mobile and therefore dispersing as much as cars, aircraft etc.

Added on top of the tip’s stationary methane-burning converted diesel engine units, additional aircraft, cars, gas-fired units in industry, homes and an overall ongoing increase and you have a composite level escalating without control or co-ordination.

In case you missed it, here’s the airport’s first of four new gas-fired units:

Could you please tell me, who’s co-ordinating all of this and who is pro-actively decommissioning worse polluting sources in an offset (vs. additive) way? What do we tell our kids in 17 years when we blow 2025’s reduced emissions targets.


So you’re against a power station?
What about the power station that is already at the tip?
Or is it only this gas station that is bad?
Because it will poison your children right?
read the plume study, the Nitrous Oxide levels will be less than that produced by cars and wood fires on the worst weather days (still conditions).
Now they are going to move it 1km north and we have to pay.
Oh Please dont ruin my view of the tip.
Just because Stanhope and his crew are useless, doesnt mean uninformed residents should get their own way.

Ah, Chewy13, I was wondering where all the anti-Nimby rhetoric had gone. You’d tried to wrap it up in spin about the Auditor’s report being benign and then using Stanhope’s strategy of confusing exactly what the site is (it’s a power station).

The reality is that Phu Tam has thoroughly vindicated the residents’ position – the process was a sham, and they have saved the rest of us (I live nowhere near Tuggeranong) from a badly sited development, which was poorly conceived and recklessly supported by Stanhope et al.

Thank God for a few nimbies! Back in your box, chewy.

Gungahlin Al2:09 pm 11 Dec 08

Cool digga!
Power to the people.
And thanks to Jonathon Reynolds for drawing our attention to that clause.

Spot on the money Grasshopper,
They have indeed made a mess of the whole thing from the start.
54-11, No commercial interest in the proposal, just sick of people i know, who live in Macarthur whinging about this proposal without even reading the DA.

Gungahlin Al: Thanks for the update and I just heard that Clause 9 is being dropped already. Not sure what other amendments are being discussed/sought behind closed doors – but seems that they’ve got the message and Stanhope is having to reneg to some extent in order to get support to get this through today.

Note the timing and panic by Stanhope (Bill tabled first day of sitting on Tuesday and needing to be passed today); tomorrow is the deadline for comments to GHD about the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and in doing this before tomorrow, it removes the prospect of someone pointing out that it would be completely credible and justified and reasonable for the Minister for Planning (Barr) to reject this development application on 13 December 2008, and insist on doing things properly (given the now know track record).

Setting a bad precedent that business only “gets up” through Legislation and amendment in law, to get around problems with the Territory Plan definitions or your independent statutory planning authority (ACTPLA) makes one wonder, what business can be guaranteed this level of support and assistance in the future if they have to negotiate outside of statutory planning processes?


I not arguing that data centres should not be built, my suggestion is to leave it to the professionals and not some beat up tinpot council who think their major players in the field of data enterprise investment. This is our money their playing with!

I do agree that this may currently seem to be the softer option for power supply today against coal burning, but please consider this? Co-gen is not yet entirely qualified when it can manifest itself in varying guises. Yes! there is the gas / steam generating combo but there is also the gas / diesel combo aswell.

They are in the process of constructing at Woolongong a 400MW+ gas fired plant to replace the old coal fired plant at Tallawarra on the shores of Lake Illawarra. The interesting thing here is that they have now added STAGE B (stage A – gas fired)which will be predominately a diesel fired generating option, this flies in the face of all principles of conservation, when you consider the fact that they will require an on going diesel supply.

The potential here in Canberra for this to be a gross polluting mess is very probable given the lack of foresight by this Government and in particular Jon Stanhope and his cronies.

May commonsense prevail? I indeed hope so.

Chewy14, do you have some commercial/employment/other significant interest in this proposal? Just wondering…


You are correct about the power usage/wastage. But if you are arguing it shouldn’t be built, then other data centre’s in Canberra (such as the proposed one in Mitchell) shouldnt be built either. Onsite Gas CoGen is far more efficient than traditional coal power. As for who’s making the money, of course the ROI to the ACT will be woeful, when do they ever get anything right?

Gungahlin Al11:43 am 11 Dec 08

He’s cool. People should put aside their concerns about his religious views and give him a chance.
When it comes to the business of government, I think he has plenty of potential.

Gungahlin Al said :

Just had a call from Alistair Coe

Did he berate you about immorality while he was at it?

Gungahlin Al11:16 am 11 Dec 08

Just had a call from Alistair Coe after I sent on my concerns to several MLAs last night (this morning?). He said they will be seeking amendments to correct the sorts of problems alluded to above.

Here’s hoping they all go through the legislation with a fine tooth comb and rid it of any unrelated “devil in the detail” clauses.

Woody Mann-Caruso: Too funny, too many late nights and forgetting I wasn’t yelling at my work mates. Caps control noted.

Respectfully, Chewy14.

This data centre will consume 50% of it’s generated power in cooling the racks in a controlled environment.
There is no feasible argument for that type of wastage in any “normal industrial business” this power wastage is purely offset by the outrageous storage fees that the Government Departments and private enterprise will have to cough up.
The real winners here are TRE (Leasehold) and Singapore Power “alone” for gas supply.
The nett ROI to the ACT Government will be offset by the original setup costs and the amazing depreciation values aginst this form of investment.

I suggest that the ACT Goverment remove themselves not only from this venture but also the trap they are in with Singapore Power as this relationship in the long term will be at the deteriment of the people of the ACT.

Our priorities right now should be Education and Health based issues, rather than pretending that we are players on the National power and data storage industries.

Dare I say, a little bit of power has gone to Jon Stanhopes head.
Not such a bright spark after all?

Mr Stanhope,
Did you seriously think that we may not notice a Power Station in any urban area in Canberra?
Really, that has got to take the cake.

Aside from the fact that Singapore Power owns the bulk of the Gas infrastructure on the eastern seaboard of Australia and yes 50% of ACTEWAGL would have absolutely nothing to do with any possible conflict of interest, would it Jon?.

Wasting millions of dollars of tax payers money already, promoting a development that in real terms will be lucky to employ any more than 10 – 20 highly qualified computer engineers and be obselete inside 10 years with current technology trends and of course commercial competition is absurd in the least.

Jon, it is now time to remove the sword from the back of the community and fall on it yourself.

Before that pristine persona of yours gets damaged any more!

Not happy Jon, are you!.

The data centre is a computer facility, which would supply backup and storage for government and non government agency’s data at a secure location, to safeguard against computer failures and data loss. They necessarily must have UPS and backup power systems (usually a big diesel generator). The idea in putting the Co-Gen facility alongside the data centre, is that it would negate transmission power losses and the waste heat (Co-Gen) is used for the cooling of the computer systems. This provides a much safer level of power stability and uses less power than would otherwise be required by a traditional data centre.

Woody Mann-Caruso9:10 am 11 Dec 08

I always ENJOY reading POSTS where random words ARE capitalised. I can REALLY feel your OUTRAGE. PRAISE JEBUS!

Gungahlin Al2:06 am 11 Dec 08

9 Use of land – To remove any doubt, a data centre and gas powered co-generation facility is a communications facility.

I have a BIG problem with this. Currently it is only ACTPLA’s interpretation of the Territory Plan that a data centre equates to a communications facility, as provided for under the Broadhectare Zone allowable uses.

This could well be tested in a court as to whether this is in fact an extreme and inappropriate interpretation (which I believe to be the case).

However this legislation as worded would remove a courts ability to make that determination.
If I am interpreting this correctly, it would also lock in that interpretation of “Communications Facility” – as JR said replete with power station attached – as an allowable interpretation in whatever Zone Communications Facility appeared!

So that would include (reaches for his trusty Territory Plan copy):
CZ1 – Town Centre Core (coming to a town centre near you!)
CZ2 – Business Zone
CZ3 – Services Zone
CZ5 – Mixed Use Zone (hello Anthony Rolfe Drive)
IZ1 – General Industrial Zone – appropriate
IZ2 – Industrial Mixed Use Zone – (Fyshwick anyone? Over the road from Narrabundah?)
PRZ2 – Restricted Access Recreation Zone
TSZ1 – Transport Zone (Good use for the railhead land next to Viridian if they terminate the line at Fyshwick instead!)
TSZ2 – Services Zone (“essential municipal services such as water, energy, transport and waste disposal” – that’s more like it)
NUZ1 – Broadacre Zone (“make provision for activities requiring clearance zones or protection from conflicting development” – so right zone but didn’t satisfy that key objective for the Mugga Lane site)
NUZ2 – Rural Zone
NUZ3 – Hills Ridges and Buffer Zone
NUZ5 – Mountains and Bushlands Zone

So…who still thinks this is a good outcome?

There is a defined use in the Plan called Major Utility Installation- that is what this use is.

If this interpretation were taken to the absurd, every department building with servers in it could be called a “communications facility”!

Jonathon Reynolds1:31 am 11 Dec 08

Digga said :

It IS COMPLETELY about undesirable outcomes. Shuts off ADJR route of appeal for 3rd parties for itself and ANY RELATED development application file by these proponents for a period of a year.

Here is my reading of the legislation (emphasis added)

5 (1) (a) (ii) development related to the Hume block development;
The definition is very vague and I agree that could be anywhere in the Territory. This needs to be tightened to limit the scope of what defines related development. I think the intention here is to use an adjoining block for the co-generation facility. If that is the case the wording needs to specify that.

5 (1) (b) made before 1 February 2009 or any later date prescribed by regulation
I can’t remember whether such regulation would be a disallowable instrument if so then this would would let the Assembly override any extension so that wouldn’t be too bad.

5 (2) Without limiting when development is related to the Hume block development, a regulation may prescribe development that is related to the Hume block development.
Yup – that confirms that the development can be literally anywhere and “supplemental” to the original intent of the data-centre and co-generation facility.

9 Use of land – To remove any doubt, a data centre and gas powered co-generation facility is a communications facility.
Nasty – a power station (co-generation) is no longer considered a power station – build any size data centre and colocate a whopping big generation facility and you escape scrutiny on the generation component.

10 Inconsistency with P&D Act – This Act applies despite any inconsistency with the P&D Act.
Nasty – this effectively says that even if the P&D Act would explicitly prohibit what is proposed it can still go ahead.

13 Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1989, schedule 1, new item 13A insert
13A Planning and Development Act 2007
• a decision in relation to a new development application within the meaning of the Development Application (Block 20 Section 23 Hume) Assessment Facilitation Act 2008
• a decision in relation to an approval of a new development application within the meaning of
the Development Application (Block 20 Section 23 Hume) Assessment Facilitation Act 2008

Removes ADJR provisions!

So much for the hope of open and transparent government! I hope that the Greens/Liberals have the sense to consider watering this down to ensure that it is more proscriptive. If the legislation passes as is then it would take a PMB amendment to make appropriate changes later.

Jonathon: The Bill including its summary and full content IS AVAILABLE (was since it was tabled on 10 December – 48 hours before the due debate and vote i.e. today 11 December):


It IS COMPLETELY about undesirable outcomes. Shuts off ADJR route of appeal for 3rd parties for itself and ANY RELATED development application file by these proponents for a period of a year.

Jonathon Reynolds12:35 am 11 Dec 08

Digga said :

Watch out for the legislation being tabled tomorrow. Once voted in, it is open slather beyond the Hume site for the data centre/gas-fired co-generation. It opens up any related development application (as long as it is stated to be linked to the initial development in Hume).

I went looking for the bill on the ACT Legislation Register website ( http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/b/default.asp ) … then it dawned on me that it wouldn’t be there until it is actually tabled. (DOH!)

I hope this bill is not treated on a same day “tick and flick” basis, it does need to be properly scrutinised… perhaps not at Committee level, but it needs enough time for the full effect of the legislation to be properly understood to ensure that there are no “undesirable” and “unintended” outcomes.

Not having seen the bill all I can suggest is that the Greens/Liberals put forward an amendment (a) that specifies specifically what block of land the legislation would apply to and (b) a maximum limit or size (as appropriate) for the gas co-generation facility.

Watch out for the legislation being tabled tomorrow. Once voted in, it is open slather beyond the Hume site for the data centre/gas-fired co-generation. It opens up any related development application (as long as it is stated to be linked to the initial development in Hume).

It has no boundaries or controls and once in effect, for one year, they can build what they like, starting with the mirror site in West Macgregor in Belconnen. The Greens will innocently vote it in, without enough time to have had it checked out legally or to understand the ramifications. Ms Bresnan today was writing to people stating this legislation only applies to Hume Block 20, Section 23.

How naive. Watch as Stanhope reaps.

Chewy14, this IS a very damning report. It is expressed in somewhat neutral language, but the import of that language is highly critical indeed.

Phu Tam has done has wonderful work and when taking into account the way in which her reports are expressed, she has given the Stanhope governemnt several well-deserved serves over the last few years.

Well done, Phu! You’ve given the Assembly a clear way forward, and now that we are no longer saddled with the highly destructive majority Stanhope government, over time things will improve in the realm of land development. It will take time but with the Greens pushing improved consultation, it will start to happen.

The major stumbling block is the current cadre of public servants in crucial positions. Things won’t change until they are cleaned out. There’s a hint there, Neil Savery.

I think this (below) is damning – albeit in a very official way:

“• The Chief Minister’s Department is responsible for coordination and facilitation
of major projects for community and business development in the ACT.
HOWEVER, no formal policies or procedures for dealing with strategic projects
existed within the Chief Minister’s Department.
• In response to the commercial needs of, and the urgency communicated by, the
consortium, the Government supported the Canberra Technology Centre proposal
by committing to an Option over land WITHOUT sufficient information and key
documentation. The government SHOULD have prepared a due diligence assessment
of the consortium intended to carry out the project, the involvement of ACTEW (a
Government Business Enterprise), as well as ensuring that the CLAIMS made by
proponents were valid and substantiated. “

The public interest has not been served.

Further, I note ACTEW’s smug reply below, completely ‘dissing’ the whole point of the report:

“Agencies should ensure a high level of probity in dealing with the Territory owned
businesses and their commercial partners such as ActewAGL by:
• clearly identifying the status and the nature of business dealings, i.e. whether they
are of a commercial or of a government nature;
• adopting an ARM’S LENGTH approach to all business dealings, which recognises that
such bodies are generally established to operate in a commercial manner; and
• communicating clear processes to relevant agencies and staff.
Government Agencies’ response: Agreed.
ActewAGL’s response: ActewAGL considers that its dealings with government agencies were conducted
professionally and at arm’s length. [to which I respond, HUH. Are they completely insane?]]

you could get 40,000 people in there no worries…

personally, i am disappointed the power station isn’t going to be mandatorily tri-generation, not just co-generation.

and i know this sounds incredibly naive, but what is a ‘data centre’ anyway? and why does it require co-location with a power station? and if it does need to be co-located, why can’t it be co-located with an existing station, say in the snowys?

how could you call the report damning?
It says that the government complied with the current planning process. Just that the process is flawed.
And all the government agencies have agreed to the recommendations, hardly damning.

Skidbladnir: Funny you should mention that, here’s a composite image of the gas-fired co-generation “facility” to scale compared with Bruce Stadium. You can see the buildings housing the 3 turbines (3 chimneys) and one fat chimney on the forward building (the bypass stacks) and then associated cooling towers, electrical switchyard components in red etc:


Didn’t Stanhope come to power riding on the back of an Auditor General’s report about the ACT Government du jour being weak in its procedure, doubtful in the execution of its processes, and failing to take into account the public interest?

Bruce Stadium Performance Audit

So who wants to ride in on this one?

The whole report is quite damning actually.

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