YOU can help us on our mission to reduce pollution in the Daintree, and lift its people out of energy poverty
pollution and energy poverty in the daintree

WHAT IS DAINTREE HOUR ABOUT?

Just like Earth Hour, it is about reducing pollution and carbon emissions, but Daintree Hour is also about freeing people from energy poverty and giving them a normal life and viable businesses.

The aim is to change the current situation of unnecessary pollution and energy poverty in the Daintree region from the Daintree River to Cape Tribulation by highlighting this hidden problem to the world and pushing the government in to action.

While government, media and tourism industry create a myth that the Daintree totally runs on green renewable energy there are hundreds of generators guzzling up three millions of litres of fuel per year blowing smoke in to the rainforest, while worn out generators and dead lead-acid batteries are sitting around in the jungle. An environmental disaster that has no place in a world that is going greener and greener, and the Qld Govt ignores our pleas.
Last year 150 countries agreed in the Paris Accord to cut CO2 emissions but the Queensland government knocks back all proposals that aim to get rid of the generators in the Daintree.

Meanwhile residents and businesses are going broke paying for all the fuel and equipment and the community is struggling to survive, with many businesses already having hit the wall, and Cape Tribulation close to collapse in 2012.

The Premier just made a statement on 17 April 2016 that:

Queenslanders, no matter where they live deserve a fair go and their fair share.
That's exactly what my Government is delivering.

Of course in the Daintree we know that we are NOT getting a Fair Go, not getting a Fair Share, and she is NOT delivering anything to us at all.

I sent her a letter detailing no less than 14 points how the Daintree is NOT getting a Fair Go, click here to read the Fair Go letter, you are encouraged to copy this letter and send it to the Premier via the.premier @premiers.qld.gov.au and to the energy minister via energyandwatersupply@ministerial.qld.gov.au

ONE CENT PER FORTNIGHT

The Queensland government is merging Ergon and Energex in to one huge power provider called Energy Queensland which brings their combined assets to $24 billion, just the implementing of this merger is going to cost them $170 million.
In the 2014-2015 financial year Ergon distributed 15140 GWh of electricity to 733000 customers, that is 15 140 000 000 kWh, (the units measured that appear on people’s electricity bills.)
In this year Energex distributed about 21000 GWh to 1,385,445 customers, that is 21 000 000 000 kWh.
When the merger is complete end of this month we will have a power company that distributes a total of 36 140 000 000 kWh.
In last week’s WIN News report energy minister Mark Bailey once again made the statement on bringing power supply to the Daintree that; “the costs will be huge” and “it will drive up the price of electricity for every one else”.
Really? By how much will building a grid in the Daintree drive up the price of electricity for Queenslanders? Let’s calculate that.
We’ll look at the cost of building a grid in the Daintree first. The Queensland government won’t have to pay all of it, the federal government will pay a share.
So the cost for Queensland would not be more than about $15 million.
Spread this $15 million dollars out over 36 140 000 000 units of electricity sold per year, and you end up with a price rise of 0.04 cents per unit.
There are different tariffs in Queensland but a general unit price I found on Ergon’s website is 27.071 cents.
The Queensland government is already planning to whack up the price of electricity by 10% very soon, so what’s the bloody difference to go from paying the current 27.071 cents to either the new price of 29,7781 cents or the new price plus Daintree of 29.8181 cents? Who is going to notice the difference between those two?
If it is already rising nearly three cents what is the difference to have another 1/25th of a cent to end a decades old saga of pollution which has absolutely no place in the 21st century in a world going greener and greener.
And that is to pay for it straight up, if they borrow from the Northern Australia Policy fund and pay back over ten years it means even less, it so miniscule that nobody would even notice!
I'm sure that if Queenslanders were surveyed and asked would you be prepared to pay 0.04 cents more for your electricity for one year if that means that a total environmental embarrassment is cleaned up and thousands of international tourists won't be scratching their heads wondering why hundreds of diesel generators are polluting the amazing rain forest they have come to see, that all Queenslanders would say yes.
0.04 cents means you would have to use 25kWh before it would cost you one single cent, or 250 kWh if we work on the ten year NAP loan scenario.
The average Aussie household electricity use in 2014 was 5817 kWh, that is 16 kWh per day.
With the ten year scenario to pay for the Daintree grid, Queenslanders would be paying (250 kWh divided by 16 kWh per day= 15.6 days) a total of nearly one cent per fortnight extra on their power bill.
One cent per fortnight!
But there's another gain to be made for the money hungry profit driven Qld govt; they have a chance to double their money.
If they spend $15 million on a Daintree grid, and the feds stump up the other half, then their power company Energy Queensland will end up with a $30 million asset for an outlay of only $15 million!
How many of us have a chance to double their money that quick and easy!
So in the long term, it is not costing them anything!
Everyone's invited to check my calculations and tell me if I am wrong.

Wet Tropics calculated in a report that the Wet Tropics region is worth $5.2 billion to the Australian economy per year. This region runs from Townsville to Daintree in patches but what is the main access point and where do most tourists go to see this unique environment?
The Daintree! So it would not be unrealistic to say that the Daintree generates half of this $5.2 billion, so why can't a few lousy millions be put back in to this area to cut pollution and support the hard working community that caters for the tourists that bring in this money?

2015 ELECTION DISASTER

Things had moved forward rapidly during December 2014 and January 2015

Premier Campbell Newman allocated $150 000 from his discretionary fund to get two private companies to do quotes on building an electricity supply in the Daintree.
The Queensland government committed to paying half the costs of the infrastructure, with the other half to be matched by the federal government.
When the grid was built by private enterprise it was to be handed over to Ergon who would run it as they do everywhere else.
Households and businesses were to pay the same tariff as everywhere else in Queensland, and the same connection costs. This was the first time in history that Daintree residents were going to be treated the same as Queenslanders!

BUT THEN DISASTER STRUCK!

An election was called in Queensland, and short sighted voters who believed the Labor party's les that public assets were going to be sold (but in fact leased) abandoned the LNP they had voted in so overwhelmingly three years before, and so against all expectations Labor won the elections! Not even Labor themselves had expected this, and they had virtually no policies ready, and certainly not for solving the crisis of pollution and energy poverty in the Daintree at that time, and now in 2016 they stll don't.

This meant that countless hours of work by Teresa and Russell O'doherty, David Kempton, myself, Bruce Clarke, Warren Entsch, Ian MacDonald and many others has now gone down the drain.
A total disaster for the Daintree community.
Just after the LNP had committed to ending the discrimination of the Daintree community and finally giving them the basic service of electricity that the rest of the world takes for granted, Queenslanders voted the Labor party back in, which has absolutely no policy to tackle the crisis of pollution and energy poverty in the Daintree.
This means the generators will keep on roaring and pumping their fumes in to the world's oldest rainforest for many many years to come.
It means that Daintree people will remain poor paying for never ending fuel bills, and replacing expensive batteries, panels, inverters, battery chargers, generators etc.
It means that in a world going greener and greener the Daintree will remain a little third world country, an environmental embarrassment where pollution and energy waste is rife.
It means that without a grid the Daintree will remain blacklisted with most of the banks, making it hard to sell a property, and elderly people who find life too hard here can not move out to the city, and when they need equipment such as breathing apparatus, they suffer from the lack of electricity to run them.
It means that businesses will keep going under because of the sky high cost of running generators, and the currently closed businesses that could have re-opened with affordable electricity becoming available, will now remain closed and keep rotting away.

At the time of writing it is March 2016 now, and the new Labor government, and our local member Billy Gordon, have not done absolutely anything to solve the crisis of pollution and energy poverty in the Daintree what so ever in their first year in office.

 

A close examination of the document outlining Ergon's Distribution Authority as part of the Queensland Electricity Act 1994 has brought to light that the exlusion of the Daintree from Ergon's distribution area only applies to the main grid!

If you read the Distribution Authority and go down to page 15 you will read that after the description of the excluded area there is a clause that says;

(2) However, the above exclusion—

(b) does not prevent the distribution entity from owning or operating a stand-alone power system for the purpose of supplying electricity to a customer in the excluded area.

This means that there is no legal barrier for Ergon to set up standalone power systems in the Daintree to supply power to communities in the same manner as they do to 34 remote indigenous communities around remote Queensland and the Torres Strait. (See map)

Late 2014 Daintree residents and business owners were busy filling out their application forms to apply for network connection.

It is encouraging that there is growing momentum in this issue, and increasing awareness amongst the politicians at all levels that something needs to be done to sort out this mess, all the way from Canberra to Brisbane and even Douglas Shire Council has now finally adopted a policy in support of this issue.

Some people are still concerned about costs. Yes, you will need to pay a connection fee, your electrical installation in your house will be to be certified by a licensed electrician, and you will need to have a trench dug from the road to your house, but all these one-off expenses will for most of us be less than a replacement generator, battery bank, inverter, solar panels, or even a monthly fuel bill.
Just in the last week three friends have told me their bills this month, one needed a new battery bank ($20 000.-), another one had a generator blow up ($13 000.-), and the third needed new batteries and solar panels ($20 000.-), he told me how his mortgage has gone up from $112 000.- to $155 000.- over the last few years, refinancing several times in order to pay for equipment to keep the lights on in the house.
That is only three people that have just forked out a whopping $53 000.- in the last week just to keep the power on in their house, and this repeats every few years.
Would you not be better off paying this money as a once-off connection cost?

 

The Queensland government has been telling us for a long time that they have no money, yet Ergon makes well over $400 million after tax profit per year and they have money for plenty of other things, such as $11 million of solar panels for the indigenous community of Doomadgee near the NT border, which has about the same population as the Daintree, but they don't contribute hundreds of milliions of dollars to the Qld economy like the Daintree does.

Government has resisted because they do not see the Daintree as a profitable place to supply electricity. This is a disgusting attitude, what are governments there for? To make profits out of their citizens, or to provide services and infrastructure to create a healthy economic climate?

Right now the Daintree is a black hole in a situation of energy poverty and pollution that has no place in a civilized 21st century western country and it is inevitable that this mess is going to be sorted out.

The G20 in Brisbane has just placed energy and energy efficiency firmly on the agenda, and Tony Abbott made the following statement:

I was really pleased today that the climate discussion was in the context of a session devoted to energy efficiency because there are 1.3 billion people around our globe – one fifth of the world’s population that don’t have access to electricity. Now, how can these people lead a decent life? How can those people live the kind of life that people in Germany and Australia take for granted, without access to power?
So, we do have to expand access to power and the only way to make power more available, to make electricity more available and at the same time address the emissions issue is if we tackle energy efficiency.

Read it here on the PM's website, last paragraph down the bottom.

Tony Abbot told the world during his speech at the G20 that it is not acceptable that one fifth of the world still lacks access to electricity, but forgot to mention that he has a little third world country in his own back yard!

G20 speech

I wrote to him that he has a little third world country in his own backyard, and I asked him what he was going to do about it, and also told him I want you to answer this and not a usual meaningless reply from a staffer. As expected, the meaningless staffer reply arrived recently...

 

battery pollution
Discarded batteries

generator pollution
Worn out generators


Generator fuel delivery

The main goal of Daintree Hour is to:

Get rid of the outdated law that prohibits grid electricity.

( The Energy Minister announced on 6 December 2012 that this has been achieved!! )
Remove the discriminatory exclusion of the Daintree from Ergon's distribution area.
Get grid electricity installed to residents of the Daintree.
Lift Daintree residents out of energy poverty and improve their lives.
End the shameful energy waste and pollution from CO2, engine oil and old batteries.
energy poverty and pollution in the daintree Make the Daintree a true ecotourism destination, and not a pretend one.
Give Daintree businesses a chance to be commercially viable through affordable electricity, which will help to create happy and healthy communities

The issue that inspired this website started in the 1990s when the Queensland Labor government introduced the Daintree Energy Policy which made any type of grid electricity or sharing of electricity in the Daintree illegal.
This policy was created when it was feared the Daintree region might be over-developed, but now that a restrictive townplan has limited development options and land has been bought back by various conservation organisations this anti-grid policy was outdated, ignorant and backwards, and created unnecessary suffering by the community, and unnecessary pollution.

The progress is hindered by people with little knowledge of the issue saying things as:

A grid will bring over-development to a pristine area

WRONG! land has been bought back by Govt and private organisations which can not be developed, and a restrictive town plan is in place to limit development on remaining blocks. There are already many people living in the Daintree. In Cape Tribulation most blocks are already settled, so no big increase can happen, would it not be better to get rid of the generators and have a cleaner energy supply?

There was never going to be any grid power, it was never promised.

WRONG! FNQEB was ready to put electricity in, it was only a matter of WHEN, and not IF, for many years. Various politicians over the years committed to the provision of mains power.
Jeff Seeney, now Infrastructure Minister of Queensland, has made promises in the past of Coalition commitment to providing power to the Daintree. Read it here.
FNQEB has done several studies in the 1990's in to the best way to build the supply.

daintree power proposalpower for the daintree

People that want power only want to make profits on real estate.

WRONG! Nobody in the Daintree is going to walk away with fat profits. Over the last two decades real estate has surged everywhere in Australia but in the Daintree it has stagnated, this means that people in the Daintree who go broke paying for fuel and generators can not move away and sell their place and get a comparable place elsewhere in the country. A grid would increase the value of Daintree real estate somewhat but it is never going to skyrocket. It would only mean that maybe then residents can afford to move and not give away their land for peanuts and start with a new mortgage elsewhere in Australia where all real estate has tripled in value over the last two decades.

You Daintree people should use renewable energy

WRONG! All renewable energy options have been throughly tested in the Daintree.
Solar panels need sun, and as rainforests tend to have many trees that provide shade, and even more so have a lot of rain and cloud, solar panels do not work very often! Who puts solar panels in a rainforest where the sun only shines for a couple of weeks a year?
Hydro electricity to supply a whole community would require damming of creeks which means too high impact, and wind turbines near World Heritage areas have just been banned by the government.
Renewable energy in the Daintree means constantly renewing generators, battery banks and other equipment.

You can not expect the Govt to pay a grid from public money

WRONG! All other infrastructure in Australia was built with public money. Nowhere else in Australia have residents had to sit down together to discuss and finance their own infrastructure. Only a tiny percentage of Ergon's annual $404 million profit is needed. All the mini grids in 34 remote indigenous communities in Queensland were built and maintained with public money.

Why don't you move?

Not many people are willing to buy a property without electricity, or even if they are then they will not pay a fair price, because most banks have the Daintree on their blacklist. This means Daintree residents can not sell their places and buy a comparable place somewhere else. They can not afford to move and are trapped. Leaving and renting out is not an option, tenants will trash the batteries or steal the generator.*-

WHAT DOES ENERGY POVERTY MEAN FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS?

It means that they spend so much of their income on buying generators, buying fuel, fixing generators, fixing or replacing other equipment such as batteries, battery chargers, inverters, solar panels, etc. that it leaves less money for other things and creates hardship, stress and financial troubles, it has a major detrimental impact on the quality of their life.

It means that for lower income families in an event such as generator or batteries dying they simply have to live in the dark or by candle light if they can not find the thousands of dollars needed to replace them.

It means that businesses, especially small ones, become commercially unviable, and many have gone bankrupt.

It means that the entire community can not function and prosper like a happy community because everyone has less income to go around.

It means that banks are unwilling to lend mortgages, making it hard for newcomers to buy in to the area, and for residents who want to leave (for reasons such as old age) to sell their properties.
They are trapped in a dangerous situation, old age does not mix well with carting fuel to generators, moving generators to the repair shop, climbing roofs to clean solar panels, and using chainsaws to trim trees that shade solar panels.

It means that when people want or have to leave the area, they can not sell their property for a fair price that could buy a comparable property elsewhere in Australia, because the lack of grid power keeps the land prices down. They are trapped, or they sell for a price that will not get them a similar place elsewhere.
Keeping the property and renting it out is also not a viable option, as tenants often do not have the skills or the willingness to look after generators and batteries, many property owners have faced bills of up to $15000 for damage done to their power systems by uncaring tenants, making it cheaper to have an empty house than to rent out a house.

It means that I, author of this website, had to move out of home to work elsewhere for several months to make money for a new battery bank and generator when they needed replacement again.

It means that residents who had generators out of action during wet weather with no sun had to move out of their homes because there was no refrigeration and no lights at night, sometimes for weeks while the generator was being repaired.

It means that elderly people, who are dependent on equipment such as breathing apparatus, suffer extra as they have to burn more generator fuel, or if the generator breaks down then they are in even greater trouble.

It means that people's health is being put at risk, fridges often go off when power runs out, and people who rely on creek water for their house do not have sufficient electricity to treat this water with UV lights or pumps and filters.
The Cow Bay Clinic has had to throw out thousands of dollars of medicines when their power system failed, a waste of taxpayers money and a risk to local public health!

And there are many more stories of hardship, too many to all list here.

Warren Entsch (Federal Member for Leichhardt, which includes the Daintree) has previously told Daintree residents that the Electricity Supply In The Daintree Region Policy will be rescinded within 100 days of LNP being elected.
The LNP won the elections on 24 March 2012, on 3 July the 100 days passed, and then, just as we were starting to wonder why we voted LNP, on 6 December 2012 the announcement was made that the policy has been rescinded, so that was step 1 of the issue out of the way.
Warren is on our side but with Qld Govt not moving on the issue there is not much he can do at this stage either.

The next step is removing the exclusion of the Daintree from Ergon's distribution area.
In October 2000 the Director-General of the Mines and Energy Department Dr. Ted Campbell made the decision to exclude the area north of the Daintree river from Ergon’s distribution area. That means Ergon is not allowed to put in any new cables, even if it means a situation like on Forest Creek Road where residents run generators while the grid is only a hundred metres away.
I have written to the current Director-General Dan hunt to lift this discriminatory exclusion but with no success.
Now we have discovered that Ergon is allowed to operate standalone systems in the Daintree, but this will cost them more than connecting us to the main grid.
Enery Minister Mark McArdle is also unwilling to do anything here, while he boasts of removing the Daintree Energy Policy that prohibited any grid he is unwilling to lift the exclusion from Ergon's distribution area for fear that Ergon might spend money here and as the main shareholder of Ergon he wants to keep high profits rolling in.
He is expecting the Daintree community to sit down together and agree on all the details of getting a grid built by a private contractor, and then for a community of 700 people to come up with the millions that it will cost to build.
After years of living in energy poverty some people have left the area and the ones that have survived have no money. Nowhere else in Australia have people had to build their own infrastructure and also pay for it, everywhere else public money has been used to build essential infrastructure and the government built it, that is why people pay them taxes.

Ofourse the government has money but they tend to have their priorities a bit wrong.
They can find billions for soldiers in Afghanistan,
1.4 million to kickstart a botanical garden in Mossman which will need a lot more
1.5 million every year for cigarettes for boat refugees,
1.7 million for a ferry landing on Palm Island
7 million for a deslination plant on Palm Island as a backup in case they run short of water in the 2016 dry season
11 million to build a mini replica of the Daintree rainforest in Mossman to keep tourists away from the Daintree
15 million for extra rooms in a research facility in Cape Tribulation so scientists from around the world can come and take photos of insects,
20 million for the Mossman Gorge centre so people can get on a bus instead of drive their own car to the gorge
25 million to have a seat on the UN Security Council for only two years (Rudd said; that is not a large amount of money...),
210 million in January 2014 for development of Northern Australia (no reference to the Daintree in the white paper)
but money for a basic service to lift an entire community out of energy poverty and reduce pollution is harder to find...

The map on the right shows 33 remote power stations run by Ergon in Queensland.
Any indigenous community, no matter how small, or how remote, enjoys subsidized electricity.
Daintree residents would like to know why they are not entitled to the same.

The current Energy Minister Mark Bailey ignores us and gets staffers to write replies to our letters, the previous Energy Minister Mark McArdle has been to the Daintree, and when face to face with residents expressed shock and sympathy for their suffering, but back in Brisbane from the safety of his office he released another media statement that the government will not pay for a grid so if people in the Daintree want an electricity grid then they can pay for it themselves!

What do Daintree residents pay taxes for?

Where else in Australia do people have to pay for their own infrastructure?

Why can't the people in the Daintree be treated the same as in the other 33 remote communties in Queensland?

The claim that there is no money for the Daintree is rubbish, there is money for the power stations above, and Ergon always makes well over $400 million dollar after tax profit in a year, even more in the last financial year.

rgon profits
Click image above for full picture

ergon profits


Copied from Ergon website

In February 2014 FNQ media wrote articles with titles such as : "Daintree residents call for government to open public purse to fund power grid".
This was misleading giving the impression that this would be the first time the government would be financing infrastructure and elsewhere in Australia residents always paid for their grids.
Of course not! Everywhere else in Australia has the electricity grid come from the public purse, and Daintree residents want to be treated the same as other Australians just for once.
The article had a string of city people with little indepth knowledge of the issue commenting that electricity would lead to a development rush (not true, buyback and restrictive town plan have fixed this) and because there was no power when residents moved in they should never expect to get it (many people in the city bought their houses when there was no internet, does that mean that they should never get an internet connection later?).

Right now the Daintree community is living in energy poverty for only one reason and that is stubbornness from the Queensland Government.
Years ago they amended the distribution area of Ergon Energy to exclude the Daintree area.
It would only take a stroke of the pen now to lift this exclusion. There are powerlines across the Daintree already supplying Forest Creek Road, some residents along this road are within sight of the mains grid power lines yet can not be connected because of a legality, Ergon is not permitted by law to make any new connections.
If the Daintree was not excluded from Ergon's distribution area then within months residents of Forest Creek Road and Cape Kimberley could be connected , and Cape Tribulation could have its own remote power station and mini grid like all remote indigenous communities within a year.
As shown above there is money, hundreds of millions per year after tax profit, and Warren Entsch will take care of federal funding.

Australia already has the western world’s highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions, and in the Daintree this runs many times higher again with every household and business running at least one generator for electricity generation.

energy poverty is a form of poverty

Nelson Mandela is right, all it takes is some action by our politicians to lift the Daintree residents out of energy poverty.

Besides pollution this situation also creates the issue of Energy Poverty, a term defined by the United Nations as economic activity being restricted by the absence of energy, and spending such a large part of your income on your energy needs that it significantly affects the quality of your life.
Residents of the Daintree, who are dependent on moderate to low incomes from seasonal tourism, have to fork out many thousands of dollars every year for fuel and regular repairs and replacements of generators, batteries, and other associated equipment.
Businesses that need energy around the clock for refrigeration spend many thousands of dollars every month on fuel for their generators, making their businesses economically unviable. Any small restaurant is up for $60 000 a year in diesel for round the clock refrigeration!

The local newspaper reported weeks in a row in September 2012 how Cape Tribulation businesses were closing, the town was dying, and the lack of affordable electricity played a huge role in this. Thanks to some optimists picking up real estate bargains some resorts re-opened and a recovery in tourist numbers in 2013 brought in more money to pay the fuel bills, and so the town narrowly survived and keeps struggling on.

2012 was declared the international year for energy access by the United-Nations, on their website they say:

Energy is critical to economic development and poverty reduction. The provision of reliable, affordable and sustainable energy services, especially for the poorest, contributes decisively to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Without energy, economies cannot grow and poverty cannot be reduced.

Insufficient electricity supply affects many developing countries. Productivity, competitiveness, employment, and economic and social development are therefore limited.

READ MORE ABOUT ENERGY POVERTY....

 

April 2013: the Queensland government has just announced a plan to make the state the number one ecotourism destination in Australia. I have written to the various ministers that we want to see the Daintree transformed from a pretend ecotourism destination running on polluting generators to a real ecotourism destination but their replies showed little interest.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ABOUT THIS ECOTOURISM PLAN

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP THE DAINTREE AND ITS RESIDENTS?

You can help to reduce pollution in the Daintree and help to lift its people out of energy poverty by:

1. Writing to the Federal Government to step in to fund grids in the Daintree, in line with the goals of Carbon Tax and Clean Energy Future.

2. Writing to the Queensland Energy Minster Mark Bailey and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk that the current situation is not acceptable and they owe it to the Daintree residents to treat them the same as all other Queenslanders.

3. To take a holiday in the Daintree from Cow Bay to Cape Tribulation and support businesses that need income to survive and pay for their generator fuel.

4. Join the Daintree Hour Facebook Group

5. Clicking the Like button below if you agree with this cause