Thursday 20/12/12 Stephen Drill, Peter Rolfe, Herald Sun
A DAVID-and-Goliath legal battle is set to erupt over the lease of the land under Victoria's controversial desalination plant.
Environmentalist Maurice Schinkel is seeking advice on the legality of leases granted to the AquaSure consortium running the plant.
Mr Schinkel, of Cowes, has engaged the Environment Defenders Office to examine the leases to see if they breach the Land Act.
He has argued that AquaSure had no right to lease the sea bed under the pipeline intakes off Wonthaggi.
Mr Schinkel said a search of land title records showed there were no previous leases on the sea bed.
I will certainly be pursuing this – they don't intimidate me, he said.
The Government yesterday confirmed Environment and Climate Change Minister Ryan Smith granted a Crown lease to AquaSure for four land allotments in Wonthaggi last week.
One lease, for 30 years, was for the use, operation and maintenance of the intake and outlet pipelines and other infrastructure.
But last night it had not been formally ratified by Land Victoria.
Department of Sustainability and Environment spokesman Nick Talbot said the lease was a formality.
AquaSure declined to comment yesterday.
Water Minister Peter Walsh has put the desalination plant on standby, with Melbourne's water storages 81.2 per cent full.
However, Victorians will be paying $1.8 million a day for the plant from today after it passed a 30-day reliability test on Monday.
The final cost to Melbourne water users will be determined next month, but bills are expected to increase up to $300 a year.