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Beyond the expected

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

By johnboy - 10 December 2008 39

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.

What’s Your opinion?


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39 Responses to
Power station site selection complied with a bad process – Auditor General
grasshopper 10:12 am 11 Dec 08

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!.

chewy14 9:37 am 11 Dec 08

Astrojax,
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-Caruso 9:10 am 11 Dec 08

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

Gungahlin Al 2:06 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 Reynolds 1:31 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.

Digga 12:52 am 11 Dec 08

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):

http://www.legislation.act.gov.au/b/db_33708/default.asp

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 Reynolds 12:35 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.

Digga 11:55 pm 10 Dec 08

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.

54-11 7:39 pm 10 Dec 08

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.

miz 6:33 pm 10 Dec 08

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?]]

astrojax 6:25 pm 10 Dec 08

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?

chewy14 5:48 pm 10 Dec 08

Deezagood,
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.

Digga 4:23 pm 10 Dec 08

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:

http://www.canberrapowerstation.info/Images/Power%20Station%20and%20Bruce%20stadium.jpg

Skidbladnir 4:07 pm 10 Dec 08

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
http://www.audit.act.gov.au/bruce.html

So who wants to ride in on this one?

deezagood 3:46 pm 10 Dec 08

The whole report is quite damning actually.

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