Wynne Hoodwinks Hinch's Listeners

MEDIA RELEASE: 27 May 2010

City of Casey Deputy Mayor Cr Shar Balmes says Minister Richard Wynne needs to check his facts about the Cranbourne methane leak debacle following false statements he made on Hinch’s Drive program last night on 3AW.

In speaking to Drive host Derryn Hinch, the Minister for Local Government said the City of Casey had not yet submitted a business case to the government for funding assistance to help with remediation costs associated with the Stevensons Road closed landfill, the site of the methane leak emergency of September 2008.

Cr Balmes said the City of Casey has, in fact, submitted three comprehensive business cases to the Government - on 24 March 2009, 29 July 2009 and 26 March 2010 - and is about to submit its fourth business case.

‘Council has received several letters from the government acknowledging receipt of these business cases – they want us to “depoliticize” the business case by removing any reference to VCAT or the EPA, then it will be more palatable for them.

‘So I suggest that Mr Wynne consult with his ministerial colleagues to check the facts before speaking on radio.

‘Listeners of talk back radio should be able to expect that interviewees are, at least, up to date with the latest information on their subject matter.

‘In a way it’s not surprising that Mr Wynne is ill informed. The Government has stuck its head in the sand on the methane leak issue since the emergency 18 months ago.

‘In addition to submitting several business cases, Council representatives have attended 14 meetings with politicians and state bureaucrats, and Council has sent 18 letters in the last year and a half seeking State Government assistance. All our efforts have fallen on deaf ears.

‘The City of Casey will defend the rights and financial position of the Council and our ratepayers who are now looking down the barrel of a $41.9 million shotgun, largely due to the actions and decisions of a range of State Government bodies that led to the calling of the Cranbourne methane emergency of 2008.’

‘Why should Casey ratepayers pay for VCAT’s mistakes?’, said Cr Balmes.

‘Why should Casey ratepayers have to foot the entire bill when VCAT, a State Government entity, was responsible for removing the buffer zone, against Council’s request, which allowed residential development to occur right up to the landfill boundary?

‘It is standard practice across Victoria to have a buffer between landfills and residential areas. Casey ratepayers should not have to pay for VCAT’s poor land-use decision which has resulted in such serious consequences for the residents of Brookland Greens estate and the wider Casey community.’

The EPA did not undertake a risk assessment before the government called the emergency in September 2008.

‘And why should Casey ratepayers have to foot the entire bill when two risk assessments conducted by consultants on behalf of the EPA (another State Government entity) determined that the risk was ‘acceptable’ both before the emergency was called on 9 September 2008 and during the emergency itself which the CFA declared over on 30 October 2008?

‘The EPA has conceded that a risk assessment should, in fact, have been conducted before the emergency was declared. Failure by the EPA to do so has resulted in the social disruption that even the Victorian Ombudsman acknowledged in his report of October 2009.

‘It’s time the State Government recognised its duty of care to Casey’s ratepayers by accepting a reasonable share of the costs to remediate the landfill. Casey Council and its ratepayers would not be in this diabolical position if, in 2004, VCAT had not removed the buffer zone and if the EPA conducted a risk assessment before calling the emergency in 2008 which has changed the lives of many of our residents forever.’