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pollution and energy poverty in the daintree

FAIR GO FOR ALL QUEENSLANDERS, NO MATTER WHERE THEY LIVE

This is what the Queensland Premier just told us in her media release of April 17, 2016
Read the full media release here but the most interesting part fo the Daintree community is this:

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

Really?

The Daintree community is the only only one in Australia where State Govt legislated against grid power.

The Daintree region has no other choice than to run generators to keep their businesses operating and the costs are crippling their economy, while the State Govt spends $700 million on subsidizing electricity tariffs in other parts of Queensland, because they know how important affordable electricity is to businesses, the Energy Minister states on his website:

"As Minister for Energy and Water Supply, Mark is focused on delivering safe, efficient and affordable electricity and water supplies to Queensland households and businesses."

And on his department's website it says:

hypocrisy
Screenshot from government website

But when the Daintree community with the highest electricity generating costs in Australia writes to their Premier and Energy Minister for help and a solution to this mess of energy poverty and pollution they get meaningless replies from staffers telling them that it is a complicated issue and if they want a grid they they can organise and pay for it themselves, which is something that no other community in Australia has had to do.

 

Dear Premier,
 
with  great interest I read your media release dated 17 April in which you stated:
 
“Queenslanders, no matter where they live deserve a fair go and their fair share. That's exactly what my Government is delivering.”
 
If all Queenslanders no matter where they live deserve a fair go then it appears the Daintree is no longer a part of Queensland, because the Daintree residents are NOT getting a fair go and NOT getting a fair share and you are NOT delivering anything to the Daintree.
 
 
Why do we think that we are NOT getting a Fair Go in the Daintree?
 
1. Because we are the only community in the civilized world who had their government legislate against the basic service of electricity, which is universally acknowledged as essential for economic activity and productivity and well being of population. This has resulted in a crisis of pollution and energy poverty with currently no light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of pro-actively seeking a solution to end this shameful pollution and energy poverty you knock back every proposal attempting to find a solution. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
2. Because the energy minister states on his website: "As Minister for Energy and Water Supply, Mark is focused on delivering safe, efficient and affordable electricity and water supplies to Queensland households and businesses." and he knows that in the Daintree there is no safe, efficient and affordable electricity supply, he knows that hundreds of diesel generators are polluting the place and keeping the community poor and he is not doing anything to help the Daintree, despite our pleas. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
3. Because on the Department Of Energy and Water website it states: Every Queenslander -  including each one of us – needs a safe reliable and affordable electricity and water supply. Just like every Queenslander, every Daintree resident also needs safe, reliable and affordable electricity, and DEWS is well aware that all we have in the Daintree is dangerous, unreliable, polluting and expensive generators and still every call for help and every proposal from the Daintree falls on deaf ears and we get meaningless replies telling us to go and build our own grid. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
4. Because elsewhere in Queensland 34 remote indigenous communities enjoy subsidized grid power from standalone mini-grids for which they never had to do anything, why is the Daintree community discriminated and not getting the same service and treatment as the indigenous communities? NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
5. Because elsewhere in regional Queensland electricity tariffs are subsidized to the tune of $700 million per year to give businesses a level playing field and pay the same $0.30 or so per kWh as in the city, while the Daintree gets no subsidy and pays up to three dollars per kWh for their random mix of diesel power and inefficient solar in rainforest climate. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
6. Because years ago solar subsidies were axed for the Daintree and only given to people already on the grid, the taxes Daintree residents paid went towards filling half a million roof tops around Queensland with subsidized solar panels while Daintree residents pay full price for their own!  NO FAIR GO!
 
7. Because we are without government representation, the MP Billy Gordon that your government installed and then sacked does nothing for us, has only been to the Daintree once, we briefed him on the energy crisis and we never heard from him again. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
8. Because ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, has $2.5 billion in funding available, and the Daintree community who needs it  more than anyone else, is not getting a cent of this. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
9. Because when Labor Government took over from the LNP they announced to honour all commitments made by the previous government, and they honoured all except for one; the commitment Campbell Newman made to pay from his discretionary fund for a detailed costing of the electricity infrastructure needed in the Daintree, and then to build it and share the costs 50/50 with the Federal Government. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
10. Because there are houses on the southern edge of the Daintree running generators next door to grid-connected houses, and thanks to the stubborn maintaining of Ergon’s exclusion area these houses can not be connected, even though the laws were broken to connect indigenous housing in the exclusion area on the northern edge. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
11. Because the Daintree as a tourism destination generates hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per annum in the north Queensland region and for the rest of Australia, but there is never any money put back in to this struggling community. We live in a Third World country with no power, no water, no sewerage, no mobile phone network, no NBN, no garbage removal, few sealed roads and had to fight and campaign for public toilets, a kids playground and to preserve a boardwalk. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
12. Because we see how the Queensland Government will be investing almost $4.8 billion in infrastructure across regional Queensland this financial year, but there is not one cent for the Daintree in there. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
13. Because in the Daintree we get told by our government that if we want an electricity supply then we will have to organise it ourselves and pay for it, this has not happened anywhere else, a project like this is way beyond the ability of a community. It is like all of us going to medical school and building our own hospital. A ridiculous proposal. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
14. Because the stubborn denial of basic electricity infrastructure keeps property values down, which is convenient for greens buying back land for conservation, but it traps residents who want or need to move, selling their Daintree property will not buy them a comparable place elsewhere, and their buyers have trouble financing as most banks have the Daintree on their blacklist. NO FAIR GO FOR DAINTREE RESIDENTS !!
 
 
Rob Lapaer
19 Camelot Close
Cape Tribulation 4873
Phone 07-40980108

The local newspaper the Mossman Gazette published this open letter, and I knew that there were going to be comments flowing in, so five days before the newspaper was even going to hit the shops I already sent my reply to their comments, because I knew what they were going to say;

1. It was your choice to go and live there...

Yes, that is right, and when I moved in to Cape Trib in 1993 it was an area just getting settled and resorts were being built, phone lines were already in the ground all throughout the Daintree, the road was getting better by the week, and at that time power supply was talked of as a matter of WHEN, not IF.
The whole Daintree was within the legal distribution area of the electricity provider at the time, and there was no way of knowing that seven years later we were going to be cut out of this distribution area without compensation. How could I possible have known I had just bought a property in the only place in the western world where a government would legislate against basic services essential to its own citizens? Everywhere else governments want to see prosperous happy communities.

2. If you don’t like it why don’t you move?

Not many people are willing to buy a property without electricity supply, or even if they are then they will not pay a realistic price, as they have trouble obtaining finance because most banks have the Daintree on their black list. This means Daintree residents who want or need to move can not sell their places for a price that will buy a comparable place somewhere else in Australia. They can not afford to move and are trapped. Moving out without selling your house is also not an option as renting out means tenants trashing your batteries or stealing your generator as often happens.

3. A grid will bring over-development to a pristine area.

WRONG! A three point plan was agreed on between government and stake holders in 2009.
Point 1: Buyback of unoccupied and other selected blocks of land.
Point 2: An amended restrictive town plan to take away the threat of over-development on the remaining blocks not bought back.
Point 3: Grid power to be provided.
Points 1 and 2 happened but nearly two decades later we are still waiting for point 3 and at three million litres of fuel per year that gets trucked across the river (as established in survey) another 30 000 tonnes of CO2 has been pumped in to our World Heritage listed rain forest since then, and countless businesses and households have gone broke and closed or left the area.

4. You bought cheap land because 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 has made promises in the past of Coalition commitment to providing power to the Daintree, I have his fax here for anyone who want to see it. 
FNQEB has done several studies in the 1990's in to the best way to build the power supply, and if ultra-greens had not stopped them it would have happened a long time ago, now we have the ironic situation where greens are responsible for ongoing pollution.

5. 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 change the value of Daintree real estate somewhat but it is never going to catch up with the rest of the country. 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.

6. You Daintree people should use renewable energy.

If this was a viable option we would be doing it!
All renewable energy options have been thoroughly examined 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, even the newest technology! While small households with enough investment may be able to run on this (together with backup generator), it is not an option for businesses with larger power demands for refrigeration etc.
Hydro electricity to supply a whole community would require damming of creeks which means too high environmental impact, and wind turbines have just been banned near World Heritage areas by our government. Other technologies are still too expensive and experimental.
Renewable energy in the Daintree now means renewing generators, battery banks and other equipment.

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

Why not?  All other infrastructure in Australia was built with public money. Nowhere else in Australia have residents had to get together to discuss and finance their own basic infrastructure. Only a tiny percentage of Ergon's annual $404 million profit is needed. ARENA has $2.5 billion in funding available for renewable energy projects, hundreds of millions have been spent on solar farms near Cooktown and Weipa, and 34 remote indigenous communities have power grids built and maintained from public money.

 

What we need now is our government to be pro-active in sorting out this situation, instead of ignoring us and knocking back any proposal we make.
1. It goes against all common sense and environmental commitments Australia makes at international conferences to have hundreds of generators roaring side by side.
2. The Queensland Government has created this mess by a.) approving the subdivision of the Daintree and b.) banning grid power and excluding the area from the distribution area of the state’s electricity supplier. They created this mess in these two steps and that makes it their responsibility to clear up this mess.