Dain­tree fight hots up

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Shane Ni­chols CON­TIN­UED PAGE 3

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.”

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