View from the Grassy Knoll
I’m not normally prone to conspiracy theories, but I just can’t help but imagine that there was once a conversation on the upper floors of a certain building in George Street that went something like this:
“Anna, we’re screwed: we’ve tried everything, and we just can’t find a way to convince the public that recycled drinking water is the go.”
“Wait a minute! Let’s pretend we are going to build a dam in an important, environmentally sensitive beauty-spot. We’ll push on despite the community outrage, the blatant inappropriateness of the location, and clear illogic of the project. Then, just as it seems the dam will go ahead—we might even schedule a little preliminary bulldozing to lend it credibility—we’ll cave in on environmental concerns. The communities and lobbyists will be so relieved that they won’t even notice when the recycled water starts pouring into Wivenhoe Dam.”
“Anna, you’re a genius! I guess that’s why Pete left you in charge!”
OK, probably not.
But I can’t help but feel that the unexpected back down on the Traveston Dam project and the introduction of recycled water into Wivenhoe are somehow linked. Maybe the government felt it couldn’t sustain two highly unpopular projects; maybe Bligh realised that Federal approval would not be forthcoming; maybe they were finally convinced that it was a ludicrous project; perhaps it will be back on the agenda shortly after the next election. But the Premier’s linking of the two issues in the press conference suggests that it’s not just my imagination.
Anyway, congratulations to the various Mary Valley environmental groups who lobbied tirelessly over this issue. The project is “postponed” rather than cancelled, but it seems to me that the major battle is over.
On a related note, I should point out that I am fully supportive of the plan to pump recycled water into Wivenhoe. I maintain that most of the objections are based on impressions and emotion, rather than the science. I don’t claim to be a scientist, but the purification process is rigorous, and modern governments are well aware of the danger of litigation if they screw something like this up. I am also aware that the Wivenhoe Dam catchments areas are largely pastoral and the dam itself is an open lake: fish swim in it; birds fly over it; cows wade in the tributary creeks; feral pigs dig in its banks; fertilizers and pesticides leach into it. I don’t think I am being gullible if I accept the Queensland Water Commission’s claim that the water being pumped into the dam will be cleaner than the water already there.