Wind damage prompts Sydney desalination critics to renew calls for closure

Winds topping 200km/h have ripped roofs off Sydney’s dormant Kurnell desalination plant. Critics of the plant have called for it to be closed completely but New South Wales’ water minister, Niall Blair, said abandonment would break the state’s contract obligations.

The plant has generated long-standing controversy because it has never produced water outside its testing phase. And it has cost Sydney’s water users some US$ 195 million a year to keep the facility on standby since it was switched off in 2012.

Green MP John Kaye said: “One option that should be on the table is to stop throwing good money after bad and consider shutting the white elephant down once and for all.” Blair said: “The NSW government cannot simply tear up legally binding contracts; that would leave the state open to a potentially massive compensation claim.”

The plant chief executive, Keith Davies said there had been “significant” damage to several roofs and a control room. where there had been water and wind damage after its windows were blown out.

Davies said it was too early to assess the cost of the damage but he said he was the plant’s insurance cover “will respond to the damage.”
The NSW government leased the plant to a private investment company for $2.3 billion for 50 years in 2012.

The desalination plant would not be turned on unless Sydney’s dam levels dropped below 70%. They are currently at 94%.