Daintree power scare
RESIDENTS north of the Daintree River are under threat of being left in the dark, as the state government backs away from any electricity funding commitments.
After a policy was rescinded late last year that had prevented the region from access to electricity, Minister for Energy Mark McArdle has been pro- active in meeting with residents and discussing their options.
However, Minister McArdle told the Gazette on Tuesday that putting Cape Tribulation down to Forest Creek on to the Ergon electricity grid would be ‘‘too cost expensive’’.
‘‘The government is not putting money into this, we cannot afford to do so and renewable energy is not cost neutral,’’ he said.
‘‘To connect Daintree to the Ergon network will cost over $30-$40 million which is an exorbitant cost borne by the rest of the population across the state.
‘‘I will be travelling to Cairns in the near future to have a meeting with the Daintree committee, we are still work- ing through the issue and are committed to work towards a long term solution.’’
Minister McArdle said they are looking at micro generation systems, however remote systems already in place across the state are being reviewed.
‘‘We are looking to go to different forms of power sources because again we are paying $100 million per year to add subsidy to a number of the remote communities,’’ he said.
‘‘We are moving away from subsidies to cost neutral power methods - that’s the way we’d rather do it.’’
Daintree Electricity Committee chair Russell O’Doherty, who lives in Diwan, argues the state government could annexe some of the profits it receives from Ergon in a period of five to 10 years to pay for electricity for the region, instead of that money disappearing into consolidated revenue.
In the 2011- 12 financial year Minister McArdle and finance Minister Tim Nichols received $255.9 million in profits from Ergon, as shareholders on behalf of the government.
‘‘If Mark McArdle’s attitude is that it’s too costly to provide power to this community, I’m disgusted with his attitude and disappointed,’’ he said.
‘‘McArdle and and Campbell Newman are treating this community with total disrespect.
‘‘ The government subsidises everyone else in the state to a tune of over $600 million which comes directly from profits of Ergon and Energex, yet the Daintree rainforest community has not had one cent spent on us in the past decades by the state government.’’
Mr O’Doherty said they have in writing a commitment from Campbell Newman prior to the election that he would honour the two previous coalition leaders promise to provide power to the Daintree.
‘‘If Campbell Newman is not going to honour his commitment then he has either misled us or is stabbing us in the back,’’ he said.
‘‘On McArdle’s desk there is a sign which says ‘ Never, never, never give up’, well that’s our motto up in the Daintree, we will never, never, never give up until we have got power.
‘‘We demand to be treated like every other Queenslander. We feel like we’ve been annexed from the state, it happened under the Labor government and now it’s happening under the LNP and I think it’s disgusted we are rated so poorly.
‘‘We don’t need the whole $40 million in one year, why don’t they commit it over five to 10 years?’’
Meanwhile the Daintree Electricity Committee handed over 280 expressions of interests of property owners who said yes to wanting mains power - 220 private property owners and 60 business. Only two businesses and four properties said no.
‘‘It was an overwhelming response and I rang Chris MacPherson from Ergon the following day and was heartened when he said they were doing mapping from all of the information and will start to move the process forward,’’ Mr O’Doherty said.
‘‘Ergon is taking it seriously, it appears the Queensland government is not, even though we are a tourism region and it falls under their four pillar commitment to the state.
‘‘ We are being discriminated against by the government.’’
Any other Daintree property owners north of the Daintree River who would like register their expression of interest with the Daintree Electricity Committee they can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Daintree Electricity Committee chair Russell O’Doherty.