Daintree fight hots up
THE new battle of the Daintree stepped up this week, with MP Warren Entsch accusing former mayor Mike Berwick of stymieing a possible power grid for the area north of the river.
Mr Entsch said he had a meeting last Wednesday afternoon with a top official of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency who had confirmed with him that the Queensland Government were ready to support initial design studies for a reticulated power grid north of the river.
This first stage, to get the project shovel-ready, could be done within a year.
But, he said, this milestone had since been negated by the fact that Mr Berwick, who is a member of the Douglas Shire Sustainability Group and the Austrop research charity in the Daintree – both of which have stated opposition to a power grid – had written to federal environment Minister Josh Frydenberg re-stating opposition to the grid proposals.
“That means there has to be yet another study, into how many people north of the river want a power grid,” Mr Entsch said. “Before we can get on with the actual cost of starting the
digging, we now have to go back and address this nonsense that Berwick has raised,” Mr Entsch said.
Speaking to the Gazette, Mr Berwick said that “even the Sunverge report itself [which outlines various options for Daintree power based on a reticulated system] said there needs to be another study because they acknowledge their report didn’t have that kind of detail in it.
“So I don’t know why Warren’s getting upset about that.
“I’m still finding out where the State is at, but they’re talking about some money to do the feasibility on de-carbonising remote area energy supplies, which I think is a good thing to do.
“I can’t see that feasibility ended up supporting what Warren is proposing though because that one is fossil-fuel fired. It says solar may or may not come in down the track.
“I can’t see the state with its climate policies supporting a fossil-fuelled fired power station north of the Daintree River, and this is ultimately a state responsibility.”
Mr Entsch and some in the pro-grid camp have claimed that Mayor Julia Leu’s and Cr David Carey’s membership of the DSSG is, or could be, a conflict of interest.
There is a fear that DSC, controlling the road verges under which power cables would run, could veto a power grid plan.
But Mr Berwick dismissed it as a red herring.
“If they came up with an agreement of power between the Commonwealth and state government, I doubt very much whether council would put a spanner in the works. “I can’t see it happening.” Mayor Leu told the Gazette there was no conflict of interest.
, “The provision of electricity is not a local government responsibility and Council has no decision-making power, which makes it impossible for a conflict of interest to exist.
“Douglas Shire Council considers electricity supply is first and foremost a State Government responsibility.”
She said the 2014 Mayoral Minute which affirmed DSC’s co-operation with proposals to extend electricity supply to properties north of the river, was carried unanimously at the time by Council.
No alternative decision has been made and that policy direction still stands today,” Mayor Leu said.
Mike Berwick sees a different problem. “The real issue will be that the power – and the road – both pass through World Heritage Areas which automatically triggers the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and that will require an assessment by the federal government.
“That will be the next challenge for those guys who want to persist with this.”