Entsch’s plea for state government action in the Daintree

Entsch’s plea for state government action in the Daintree

Published Thursday 26 May 2016

WARREN Entsch, the Federal Member for Leichhardt, has again highlighted the power issue in the Daintree, in a week when the spotlight is on electricity prices, ahead of the Queensland Competition Authority deciding on May 31 whether to tick off a plan to increase the cost of power by 10 per cent.

This follows the Queensland Productivity Commission’s public hearing in Cairns last month, and Federal Labor’s announcement of still another inquiry into Australia’s electricity industry.

In addressing the Daintree matter in the strongest terms, Entsch said the region continues to be ignored.

“Just two hours north of Cairns city, residents and businesses in the Daintree continue to plead for an opportunity to enjoy the same safe, reliable and affordable energy supply that’s enjoyed by other communities in regional Queensland,” said Entsch.

Queensland Labor Senator Jan McLucas said their inquiry “will include questions about pricing but it’s about more than that. It’s about the transition to a renewable energy future.”

“Sadly, her state Labor colleagues continue to relegate this community – located north of the Daintree River and south of the Bloomfield River – to a future of continued pollution and expense.

“The Daintree Power Committee recently identified a potential solution to the power issue, a renewable technology that has been tested overseas.  I urged Ergon to consider the proposal – the Daintree requires us to ‘think outside the box’ – but the Committee was devastated to have it dismissed out of hand by Ergon in a letter dated 21st March:

“Regardless of the proposed generation technology, the supply solution offered to the community does not address the significant issues impeding the establishment….

“These primary impediments include the lack of available funding to design and construct an isolated distribution network and suitable generation units in the Daintree, while accommodating the unique environmental, cultural, and World Heritage sensitivities of the area.”

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<link new-power-plant-key-to-business-survival.13581.0.html>New power plant key to business survival

Regardless of the merits of the technology, this is a major disappointment. The Daintree Power Committee – comprising volunteer local residents – have spent hundreds of hours working to find a way out of this mess that was created by successive State Governments, only to find the path they were forced down is a dead end.

“The current State Government has essentially said, ‘even though we pushed you down the path of identifying a possible solution, now that you have it, it’s actually irrelevant because you haven’t said how you’ll pay for it or how it’ll comply with World Heritage. And, even if you had, the State Government has prohibited us from doing it anyway’.

“Now the Daintree Power Committee is being referred back to an independent consultant. The State Government and the Minister clearly have no interest whatsoever in helping to find a workable outcome,” said Entsch.

Entsch said the State Government and its senior leadership clearly do not consider the Daintree to be part of Queensland.

“Otherwise, they would immediately address a situation where a region is struggling economically as direct result of being denied a ‘safe, reliable and affordable energy and water supply’,  and the ‘innovative policy’ to support ‘a cleaner, greener energy future’ is nowhere to be seen, thanks to hundreds of generators burning three million litres of fuel per year.

“At its core, this is a human rights issue, resulting from a unique situation whereby a State Government has legislated that a particular group of residents cannot access the same vital energy infrastructure that all other residents are able to access.”

Entsch said it is time for the State Government to accept that the exclusion from Ergon's distribution area and the law banning neighbouring properties from sharing electricity has devastated the Daintree economy.

“Meanwhile, their excuses about the cost of supplying this community don’t stack up. Ergon already owns and operates 33 isolated power stations, providing electricity to communities which are ‘isolated and too remote for connection to the national grid’, including Stephen Island in the Torres Strait (population 50 as at the 2011 Census),” he said.

“In addition, Ergon Energy – a State Government Owned Corporation – gets its high-voltage electricity to distribute and sell from Powerlink Queensland – another State Government Owned Corporation. Powerlink owns, operates and maintains the transmission network that extends from north of Cairns to the New South Wales border.

“This situation has been a blight on this community for decades, it is an absolute disgrace and has not been addressed by successive governments.  This is clearly about money and has nothing to do with the environment.

“It’s a case of the State Government resisting any efforts to invest in this community of 1200 people – all Queenslanders, all entitled to access the same critical infrastructure that is enjoyed by those in every other part of the state. It’s time for the Queensland Government to acknowledge Daintree Coast residents as Queenslanders and welcome them back into the fold,” said Entsch