Dain­tree power scare

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

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 ter­rus38@gmail.com

Con­cern:

Dain­tree Elec­tric­ity Com­mit­tee chair Rus­sell O’Do­herty.

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