The location of the Sewer Mining Plant in Eram Park, North Box Hill, which is to supply recycled water to the Doncaster Hill high rise apartment scheme, will not be decided until the six lane expansion of the eastern freeway/north east link, adjacent to the proposed site, is approved by the authority. If it is to proceed, there are doubts about its future given the disruption to local area infrastructure at this late stage, it will be the first time such a system and treatment plant has been introduced into an established urban setting, and the project will put Doncaster Hill at the forefront of sustainable water solutions.

Freeway widening adjacent to proposed site and artists impressions below.  click to enlarge


The plan is for water, extracted from the sewer main, to be treated and pumped up to Doncaster Hill, one mile away and seventy metres above Eram Park, via a network of pipes through residential streets and connected to high rise apartments for toilet flushing and laundry use.

If and when the treatment plant is built, Doncaster Hill will be the first established area in Melbourne where every new resident will use recycled water pumped from a centrally located treatment plant.  Yarra Valley Water and Manningham Council had agreed to develop the recycled water project, which will give more than 5000 residents who expected to live on Doncaster Hill by 2020, access to Class A recycled water from a local treatment plant. “Development at the Eastern Golf Course is expected to create significant additional demand for water, and this provides additional opportunities for water management within the golf course and on the hill”,  said one senior officer.

MCG Underground SMP
Click to enlarge

Why is the plant so far away from the area it is to service?  To answer the question a little history is required, back in 2008/9, Manningham Planning Officers and Yarra Valley Water had already agreed, without any consultation with developers or the community, to make it mandatory for all new residential developments on Doncaster Hill to connect to the system, to provide recycled water for use in toilets, laundries and gardens. A council report into the project indicated that connecting to the “third pipe scheme” was expected to cost around $500 (in today’s money) a dwelling.  “Development at the Eastern Golf Course is expected to create significant additional demand for water, and this provides additional opportunities for water management within the golf course and on the hill”, one senior officer said.

Both parties had identified the Eastern Golf Club property, which is was for sale at the time, as the ideal and most suitable site for the sewage treatment plant but had neglected to inform the Golf Club who were in the process of negotiating the terms of sale with the eventual buyer of the land who was later to provide for 1000 dwellings.

Eastern Golf Course Opportunity Excerpts from Council Minutes:
1.27. While not located within Doncaster Hill, the potential development of the Eastern Golf course provides an excellent opportunity to leverage the Doncaster Hill example.
1.28. The 47 hectare Eastern Golf Course is located immediately to the east and downstream of Doncaster Hill. Its potential redevelopment provides a number of opportunities to support an integrated water management approach, both within the Eastern Golf Course redevelopment and on Doncaster Hill, for arange of reasons, including:
Development at the golf course is expected to create significant additional demand for water.
Development at the golf course is likely to increase the potential for storm water flows from within the site. There is already a recognised flooding and capacity issue within the downstream Melbourne Water storm water system, which needs to be addressed.Under the provisions of the Victorian Planning Scheme, development will be required to comply with Clause 56 of the Planning Scheme, including the attainment of storm water management standards and consideration of opportunities for integrated water management.
Development of the golf course will provide an opportunity to negotiate with a developer around the provision of land for a potential water treatment plant, and achievement of some broader sustainability principles across the Eastern Golf Course development.

Treatment plant details
Click to enlarge

Pipe Plan
Click to enlarge

The decision caught everyone by surprise, when details of the treatment plant were announced and had threatened to seriously undermine the sale of the Golf Club land.  What was to follow was a hasty “review” by council officers who were to suddenly discover there were “technical issues” that meant the Golf Club area was unsuitable for a treatment plant after all. Even though detailed drawings of the plant, its capacity and its location were included in the council minutes that sought approval from Manningham Councillors.

Councillors Decision 
Click to enlarge

There was more embarrassment to follow when council officers proposed a new site for the Sewer Mining Plant just metres away from residential properties on Tram Road reserve. It was a debacle from the start with hundreds of residents up in arms and television news getting involved. Manningham Councillors had had enough by this time and not only voted against the development but resolved not to sell, lease land in the Koonung ward to Yarra Valley Water for the purpose of a recycling plant. This whole process has been handled in a very unprofessional manner that began with the complete lack of consultation, not only with stake holders but the community as well, and put together at the whim of one or two Manningham Planning officers.


  1. Pins says:

    The Plant was proposed in response to fears that the drought of 2009 would continue but within 18 months our reservoirs were full and overflowing and in addition the government had given the green light to build the desalination plant in Wonthaggi which meant the only beneficiary of the sewer mine would be the Yarra Valley Water who have to build it and connect to the Doncaster Hill apartments. Whitehorse who have had no say in the matter have requested that it be built underground which is being considered.

  2. Rayson says:

    If it does go ahead there will be a huge disruption in the local streets leading up to the high rise buildings not to mention the chaos on Doncaster Hill itself. If the sewer mine was built underground, similar to the plant at the MCG, it would free up precious open space.

  3. Lukemarie says:

    This is how they approach planning in Manningham…always putting the cart before the horse. They signed up with Yarra Valley Water to mandate a third pipe to the apartment buildings to accept recycled water and agreed that the most suitable site for the sewer mining plant was the golf course land. But they did not tell the club who were negotiating with the developer to sell their land. As a result the deal looked likely to blow when the buyer found out and threatened to walk away. The council backed down and agreed to look elsewhere and chose a site a mile away from the activity centre!
    The massive Doncaster Hill Strategy was another example. It was approved despite their own consultants advising that it was too large a development without there being assurance of a railway station.

  4. Grace says:

    VicRoads might have a problem due to the sloping terrain and as a result could require a much wider area of land to the north of the proposed expansion which could further delay YVW access to the site. In addition the land at Eram Park might require extensive earthworks including a large amount of filling to bring it up to level. Yarra Valley Water could exit the proposal relatively unscathed if it chose to do so now and the apartments would still have normal plumbing. There were no plans for an expansion of the freeway when this SMP plan was hatched 10 years ago and a lot has changed around Doncaster Hill since then. I would not rule out State Government intervention.

  5. Rodavon says:

    It might not be until 2025 before the plant is built which is 17 years since Yarra Valley Water and the Manningham signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in October 2008. The pipe network up to Doncaster Hill was to be put underground from Eram Park across Koonung creek to Grange Park Drive, to Whittens Lane, Elm Tree Road, Gifford Road, Hepburn Road and Short Street Tram Road to Doncaster Road, then serving the Hill and the eastern Eastern Golf Course area..

  6. East of Whittens says:

    The hastily conceived Sewer Mining Plant proposal was the brain child of an ex Manningham senior female planner. The agreement with YVW to mandate “third pipe” plumbing in all Doncaster Hill developments was unduly rushed in order that all future building permits could be made subject to the third pipe installation. There were exceptions such as the three or four buildings that had already been built and permits already granted but not exercised before the agreement that needed to be “renegotiated”. According to an employee of council at least one developer received a discount on the money he owed to the developer contribution scheme equal to half the cost of the third pipe installation.

  7. Consultation says:

    Did YVW agree to mandate the third pipe facility to all Doncaster Hill developments on the understanding that the Golf course site would be the destination for the sewer mining plant? Did they assume that Manningham Council had informed the Golf Club of the plan? The answer to that is they were not, in fact their secretary was informed by one of its members who attended a council meeting where councillors had approved the plant be located somewhere on the Club land.

  8. Colin Chalmers says:

    Just because we have a Disaltation Plant we are not using at the moment does not mean we won’t need to employ it in the future to support of our record immigration numbers. That is why we need as many of these plants as possible particularly on new estates. The drawback with this proposal is that it is to be built in an established suburb which adds to the cost of infrastructure to connect to the buildings plus the energy cost of pumping the water from so far away and up so high. Also the loss of parkland the plant will occupy and the access road to truck the unwanted sludge to be dumped in landfill. There are fears of spillage of raw sewage into the adjacent Koonung creek which can happen but it very seldom occurs. There is talk that construction of the plant may be cancelled by state government which would be a pity.

  9. Cardigan 202 says:

    If this plant is cancelled YVW or Manningham will not be seriously out of pocket. It will be the apartment purchasers who will eventually have to pay, not the developers who have spent up to $50,000.00 to install the third pipe per development, who will simply passed it on to their buyers.

  10. Anonomity says:

    The only suitable location for the sewer mine was the golf course because there was no alternative site. Locating it a mile away from it’s recipients is absurd. As usual it is the apartment owners who will have pay as a result of Council’s knee jerk planning.

  11. cardigan says:

    The Sewer Mining plan was to be located on the eastern edge of the Lawson Reserve and adjacent to the Golf Club land. If the Golf Club had of been informed at the outset they could have negotiated to have the plant built underground and left plenty of open space for recreation. By not consulting either party council had portrayed themselves as acting surreptitiously. The extra cost of building the plant underground at the reserve would have been cheaper for YVW than cutting up the lead up streets to insert pipes to carry recycled water from a plant a mile away.

  12. Nick says:

    It will be some time before they settle on the extended freeway lanes, they say 12 months but it is likely to be much longer by which time the sewer plant would have been forgotten much to everyone’s relief.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *