Water management project criticised for lack of results

THE Victorian Auditor-General has been urged to review a delayed Ballarat water management project.

The Office of Living Victoria’s “Living Ballarat” project has come under criticism for having no results to present despite being first announced almost three years ago.

Labor opposition water spokesperson Martin Foley said the program was based on questionable science and commercial arrangements.

“We call for the release of the peer reviewed scientific and economic data which shows this is a worthy investment for the people of Ballarat,” he said.

Mr Foley said he had “big concerns” with the way the project had been operated.

“We say this is cause enough for the Auditor-General to investigate this specific project as a symptom of a much wider problem in the Office of Living Victoria,” he said.

“This is tailor-made for the kind of concerns around misgoverned, bad decision making and poor outcomes that the Auditor-General should be encouraged to review.”

The project aims to collect, treat and store the billions of litres of water which run off Ballarat’s roofs each year.

Chair of the Living Ballarat Control Board Dr Mark Harris said he was not surprised by the criticism and welcomed the close attention the project was receiving.

“It is only helpful to us that people are interested in the project,” he said.

Dr Harris said the delays in the process had become frustrating for various board members.

The Courier understands the board has asked for the stormwater harvesting and economic modelling plans, but is only just starting to see some of the information. 

This board was established in 2013, almost 18 months after the project was announced, to oversee the development and implementation of the Living Ballarat project framework.

The board includes several city leaders, however Dr Harris said they were not paid to be a part of the project.

Despite the delays, Dr Harris said the board was hoping to be able to show some results within the next two months.

“Sure, we would have like it done three months ago,” he said.

“Good science will always be that way, as a pilot project which could be used across other regions a lot of work has to go into it.”

Water minister Peter Walsh said the project was the first of its kind in the state and defended the slow progress.

“Initial funding from the Living Ballarat project has helped progress a sophisticated analysis of the region’s water supplies,” he said.

“This is the first time this type of detailed investigation into the whole water cycle of one of Victoria’s regional districts has been undertaken, and we’re prepared to take the time to make sure we get it right.”

Mr Walsh did not respond to questions concerning whether or not an independent evaluation of the project by the auditor-general was necessary.



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