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Bill Sykes responds to Mokoan criticism

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A Chronicle article by Phil Nolan (24 Jul 06) reported that:

“an angry water minister, John Thwaites, said in parliament last week that the claim (of Bill Sykes of a cost blow out on Lake Mokoan) were untrue after three times being rebuked by the speaker for attempting to attack Mr Sykes personally”.

Bill Sykes has now responded referring to the “Mokoan Cost Blowout Deceit”

The Bracks Government is getting tangled in its own web of deceit as it attempts to down play the $24 million cost blow out of wetland rehabilitation if the proposed decommissioning of Lake Mokoan goes ahead according to Nationals Member for Benalla, Bill Sykes.

Dr Sykes said, “The Government appointed consultant’s report shows that to deliver on the Government’s promise of a world class wetland (with associated tourism infrastructure) the cost will be $24 million (or more).

“Government claims last week that the costs of rehabilitation are only $2.33 million are grossly misleading as they only relate to a small proportion of the total costs.”

Dr Sykes continued, “I am extremely concerned about Government manipulation of the facts.

“A few months ago one of the consultants said to me, “Rehabilitation is certainly not a one year, $1 million project; it will take decades and cost tens of millions of dollars if not hundreds of millions of dollars”.

“Now the total project cost is estimated at $24 million comprising $2.33 million for specific wetland rehabilitation and the remainder for rehabilitating the dry land area, infrastructure costs including tracks, roads, interpretive centre and tourist accommodation – all essential if the Government’s promise of a world class wetland is to be honoured.

“But the $2.33 million is ‘rubbery’ and excludes basic rehabilitation costs.

“Costs included in the $2.33 million are:

Replanting $130,000
Fencing $700,000
Maintenance 6yrs $1,500,000

“The replanting costs are very low because the consultants have assumed a lot of natural revegetation. This is not supported by any reference to a similar scale revegetation project anywhere in the world.

“Further, land holders and land carers know that weeds are the first species to invade bare land.

“The consultants acknowledge this to some extent but seem to have grossly underestimated the costs.

“The costs for maintenance equate to 4-5 full time staff to control weeds and pests on several thousand hectares for six years. This is an ambitious assumption and similarly modest costings for weed control and maintenance for the longer term are included elsewhere.

“Excluded from the ‘rehabilitation costs’ are a rehabilitation schedule ($350,000), a management plan ($100,000) and the cost of rehabilitating the inlet and outlet channels and the 5,000-6,000 hectares of dry land which will not form part of the future wetlands.

“Also excluded are monitoring and research costs for which a paltry $500,000 has been allocated elsewhere in the budget.”

Dr Sykes also expressed his concern that the report tells only half the story in relation to increased flood risks to Benalla, presumably to down play those risks.

Dr Sykes said, “The report notes that given the limits on the capacity of the inlet channel, its impact on lowering flood levels is small and thus decommissioning Lake Mokoan will have little impact on flood risks to Benalla and downstream.

“The report fails to recognise the importance of Lake Nillahcootie being managed to have 30,000 mega litres reserve capacity in winter to take the top off moderate to big floods. This reserve capacity will not be there if Lake Mokoan is decommissioned.

“The full information must be made available to the public before any final decisions are made.”

Dr Sykes concluded, “The Minister for Water either has no grasp of the information upon which he is making decisions which impact on the future of Benalla and downstream residents, or he is deliberately continuing to deceive people as the Bracks Government struggles to deliver on its political commitments of water for the Snowy River and the Living Murray Project.

“I call on the Bracks Government to make public all of the facts and costs on the proposal to decommission Lake Mokoan.

“If the facts do not support the current strategy then the Government must go back to the drawing board and achieve water savings by other means – this time listening to local people.”


Written by Greg Naylor

24 July 2006 at 5:26 pm

Posted in media release

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