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Budget blow out blues

May 12, 2011

Budget blow out blues

Originally published 30/04/10

An independent investigation instigated by the ACT Greens into the Cotter Dam expansion has revealed yesterday that the project had risen hundreds of millions of dollars over budget.

The Cotter Dam Enlargement Project involves the building of a new dam downstream from the existing Cotter Dam with the intention of increasing the Cotter reservoir’s capacity.  Current capacity sits at four Gigalitres, while the projected capacity after completion will be 78 Gigalitres, almost 20 times its size.

In 2007, ACTEW Corporation told the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission that they estimated the projected total for the Cotter Dam enlargement would be $145 million.  This was accepted by the commission on the proviso that final costs could be up to 30 percent higher.  However, an investigation into the project’s budget by the ICRC has revealed that the projected cost had risen to $363 million.  The report also questions whether a revised cost-benefit assessment was completed by ACTEW in regards to other options it could have taken.  Also included in the report are concerns whether an assessment was ever carried out by the ACT Government, as was required.

ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury says that the ICRC report has concluded that the project is not in the best interests of Canberrans, due to the inflated costs.

“The ICRC investigated the projected construction totals after a Greens dispute over costs.  The commission has asked ACTEW if the infrastructure is correct and has found that the ACTEW bid did not investigate if this project was the best option forCanberra, in terms of the construction costs.”

Mr Rattenbury says that the investigation may have had a completely different result if the Greens had not voiced their concerns.

“The ACT Greens asked for an independent investigation, someone who was not tied to the Government and now that Commission has advised the Government that it is not the best option forCanberra.  This may not have happened if the ACT Greens had not gotten their way.”

These revelations come just days after ACTEW Project Manager Ray Hazkiel spoke at a ‘Friends of the Cotter’ meeting in Weston about the commencement of construction on the dam.

“Production costs have remained quite stable and blasting is now under way.  We have setup a rock crusher on site that will provide the materials for the one million tonnes of concrete that will be required.” Mr Hazkiel said.

The ACT Labor party failed to respond to calls.

ACTEW has more community meetings planned in the coming weeks.

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