The Fight For Daintree Power
On 14 April 2017 Federal Energy and Environment Minister
Josh Frydenberg joined Warren Entsch for a trip to the Daintree, met with
locals, saw the diesel generators running and smoking, and decided this
Third World pollution scenario was not acceptable in the 21st century.
He instructed ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency) to do something
about this, a study was commissioned and the report delivered early 2018
(see link at top of page).
A bit later even the Queensland State Government committed to working
together with ARENA and announced one million dollars in the 2018 budget
Normally government and opposition disagree on everything, the opposition
was in support of this commitment, as Shadow Energy Minister Michael Hart
has been to the Daintree several times about this issue, and also visited
the Daintree Conspiracy Museum.
Early 2019 the Sunverge / ARENA report was released and
out of five options they had chosen the most practical; a micro grid that
connects all properties so they can share excess renewable energy, with
a central backup, which was initially gas and later improved to hydrogen
created by solar.
So everyone agreed that it was a great idea to finally make
the Daintree a genuine eco-tourism destination by changing from hundreds
of diesel generators to a cleaner greener grid, but then the protests
The Douglas Shire Sustainability Group, boasting 70 members
out of a 12000 shire population, decided to start protesting against ARENA's
grid proposal, because they say it will lead to over-development of the
Daintree. They want to keep all Daintree homes and businesses to remain
on standalone renewable energy systems, which means in a rainforest with
shading trees and 4.2 metre annual rainfall, that little will change and
the generators will keep on roaring.
DSSG works together with Low Isles Preservation Society (LIPS), Cairns
and Far North Environment Centre (CAFNEC), The Environmental Defender’s
Office (EDO), Queensland Conservation Council (QCC), Rainforest Rescue,
The Wilderness Society (TWS), the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF),
Greenpeace, Getup, and of course Douglas Shire Council.
This "sustainability" group includes:
- ex-DSC mayor Mike Berwick who has fought against grid
power in the Daintree ever since he lived in his grid connected house
on Forest Creek road in the 1990s. Ironically it is his own 2006 town
plan that he even won an award for that is now protecting the Daintree,
and he is worried that a grid will bring overdevelopment..
- current DSC mayor Julia Leu and councillor David Carey who have obligations
under the Local Government Act to act in the public interest of the community,
not the environment as first priority, or pursuing personal agendas. Being
members of a group against a Daintree grid is NOT in the public interest
of the Daintree community and creates a serious conflict of interest.
- Hugh Spencer who is locally infamous for illegally poisoning coconut
trees, claims that standalone solar power works fine, even in the rain.
He has registered himself as the officious name AUSTROP in an attempt
to give more credibility to his opinions, and he disputes the best option
provided by ARENA and Sunverge who have succesfully completed billions
of dollars of renewable energy projects, while he himself has only put
some solar panels on his own place, while he had an extension lead to
his neighbour's diesel generator for many years.
This must have been not long after the farm unplugged him
At the top of the page we reported the announcement from
Queensland government to work with ARENA but after the ARENA report was
released and Mike Berwick had lobbied the Queensland government they changed
their stance and 11 months after the million dollars was annnounced in
the July 2018budget decided to quickly spend it before the year was over
and hired KPMG to do yet another study (while the issue had already been
resolved by federal governmentt) and they organised a meeting in the Mossman
Representatives at this meeting included Douglas Shire Council,, Wet Tropics,
ARENA, DNRME, Daintree Renewable nergy Inc., Daintree Marketing Cooperative,
DSSG, and for some reason Hugh Spencer and his partner were there too.
The whole meeting was sort of comical as the ARENA study had been finalised,
the federal government had committed money to take it to the next stage
to be shovel ready early 2012, and the entire afternoon was spent brainstorming
and discussing a solution as if the whole federal sponsored micro grid
project did not exist.
We were all told not to "talk out of school", to keep everything
secret, but in reality nothng was said this day that was riveting or even
remotely worth reporting, and the usual suspects repeating their usual
nonsense that electricity will bring overdevelopment and a bridge and
destroy the Daintree. It all sounded like a do nothing mission to me.
Article in the local Gazette 28 June 2018, click to enlarge
WHY EVEN HAVE A FIGHT? Who could possibly object to the Daintree getting
a cleaner power supply?
Due to an amendment in the Electricity Act in 2000, Daintree businesses
and residents have so far been denied grid power, and in a rainforest
where solar power is not very viable, hydro power would need dams, and
windpower is banned by the state (on request by DSC) , we have had to
rely on generators for decades.
Studies have established that the Daintree community of 800 people burn
between three and four million litres of fuel per year in hundreds of
generators, contributing an estimated annual 10,000 tonnes of CO2 to the
climate change that affects our planet, not to mention all the sumpoil,
worn out lead acid batteries and other equipment.
In 2017 Josh Frydenberg came to the Daintree, decided that this third
world pollution scenario was not acceptable, and instructed ARENA to act
Recently their report was released and the federal and state government
committed to cooperate.
It is totally bizarre that now local "green" group Douglas Shire
Sustainability Group objects to this proposal to clean up the Daintree
with a 21st century power supply. They want to keep every property on
standalone power, which will mean the generators will keep on going for
ever. They published ideas to go to music festivals to recruit hippies
for Save The Daintree protests.
The energy experts of DSSG, disputing the the best practise recommendations
of ARENA and Sunverge,
who have succesfully completed hundreds of millions of dollars of renewable
Look at some of the people in this group;
Mike Berwick, who has fought against power in the Daintree since the
1990’s, while he actually lived in a grid power house in the Daintree
at the time, he was mayor of the shire when he negotiated the Thee Point
Plan (1. buyback 2. restrictive townplan 3. power) and it is his 2006
townplan for which he won an award that now protects the Daintree from
overdevelopment, but today he still claims reticulated power will cause
Hugh Spencer, a one man band hiding behind the officious AUSTROP name,
whose only achievement is some solar panels on his own place, but he disputes
the reports of ARENA and Sunverge, organisations who have successfully
completed billions of dollars of renewable energy projects.
DSC councillors Julia Leu and David Carey, who have obligations under
the Local Government Act to act in the public interest, and even though
power supply is a state responsibility, how much advocacy have they done
for Daintree power compared to their efforts for dog shelters, school
crossings, boat wreck cleanups etc?
Acting in the public interest (of the Daintree community) means advocating
for a clean affordable power supply that will support viable businesses
and ease the burden on household budgets to keep the lights on in the
family home. Not writing to state government to ban windpower near world
heritage, or being part of DSSG that fights against a normal clean power
supply, or putting a solar farm in South Douglas instead of North Douglas.
DSSG screams the current proposal includes a fossil fuel generator, but
isn’t one central gas generator much better for the environment
than hundreds of old diesel and petrol generators? And when the grid is
in, then households with excess solar and hydro can share this with others,
and renewable sources such as a solar farm can be added to the supply,
as is being done in remote indigenous communities.
And are the seventy DSSG members living in off-grid houses? Or are they
living in houses connected to a grid, powered by mostly coal, at best
with some symbolical solar panels on their roofs?
It is crystal clear that their agenda is economic sabotage, making business
economically unviable, making life as hard as possible for the Daintree
community, to discourage settlement, and in the hope that one day they
will all go away, and the buyback organisations can keep buying land for
peanuts, there is no genuine environmental logic behind fighting a change
from diesel generators to a normal grid.
DSSG claims to represent the shire on environmental issues, but it is
believed that it is only a registered group to push the interests of a
small core of people with extreme views. They certainly seemed to have
problems finding people to run this organisation, and an invite in July
2019 for members and supporters to come to the park to discuss threats
to the Daintree (what threats, a cleaner electricity supply?) resulted
in only 13 people turning up, which includes the usual core of the leaders.
From the 2015 annual report
From the 2017 annual report
They are very proud of the Daintree Campaign; lobbying politicians
to deny the Daintree community a cleaner and more affordable electritity
supply, no wonder the hard core gets little support from many members
and almost nobody turned up for this meeting.
How can this DSSG claim a grid will cause over development when their
member Mike Berwick got an award for their 2006 Planning Scheme that protects
the Daintree? Even on the DSC
website you can find that they acknowledge the risk of overdevelopment
has been mitigated thanks to the buyback and planning scheme.
The controversial 2006 Planning Scheme
voted in to law, protecting the Daintree
And look at this March 2013 letter from Mike Berwick in
the local Gazette, he certainly likes to change his mind...
Letter in the Gazette March 2013
Let's compare what the two different options would mean;
DSSG STANDALONE RAPS
Directional boring for cables, no trees
Every household needs to destroy nearly
a hectare of rain forest for sufficient sun on solar panels
Sharing of excess renewable energy
Energy wasted when batteries are full
No more generators!
Every property still needs a generator
for the many wet times
One clean efficient central backup
Hundreds of "backup" generators,
still burning diesel
Affordable electricity at the same
rate as the rest of the state
Electricity costing a multiple of what
the rest of the state pays
Reliable electricity for vital telecommunications
Continued failing of telecommunications
due to standalone power system failures
|Telstra will upgrade their network for
phone and NBN
||Telstra's ancient copper network willl
continue to fail, and the internet satellite dishes stop during rain
|The school can have normal internet for
||The school will continue to suffer internet
outages and phone problems
The Daintree will be an eco-tourism
destination to be proud of
The Daintree continues to be an embarrassing
pretend eco-tourism destination
A permanent solution
A temporary band aid, RAPS systems
components will need to be replaced when they start to wear after
a few years
End of energy poverty for the Daintree
a predictable power bill every three months at a fraction of the
cost of running standalone power
Continuation of energy poverty for
the Daintree community.
keep paying fuel bills and be hit with blows of $5,000 to $30,000
when batteries or generators need replacing
End of Third World pollution contributing
to climate change
Continuation of pollution contributing
to climate change
|The renewable micro grid is a great tourism
||Diesel generators will continue to surprise
and shock tourists
Most of the residential properties in the Daintree are only
one or two hectares, when you keep the trees 50 metres away from your
house to get enough sun on your solar panels this means 100 by 100 metres,
which is one hectare. This means clearing your entire block if you live
on one hectar,e or clearing half you block if you live on two hectares.
Why does a "sustainability" group think this is better than
an underground cable?
The real reason they prefer to keep the polluting standalone
systems going and they are against a grid is that they are concerned it
may affect the land prices in the Daintree, which would be inconvenient
for the never ending buyback.
CAFNEC article from 2013
Rainforest4 article 1 May 2019
It is no wonder that people in the Daintree feel like they
are not wanted and there is a conspiracy to drive them out, when their
councillors are closely connected to the people who obstruct their basic
infrastructure are doing this for the purpose of being able to buy up
land for peanuts and talking of closing roads....
They love closing roads and nothing would make them happier
than closing all roads in the Daintree.
pic to read full article
The more progress is made to changing the Daintree from
expensive standalone diesel/solar to a cleaner micro grid, the more individuals
and their organisations come out of the shadows to protest against this,
providing the evidence to support the long held Conspiracy Theories that
there is an agenda out there trying to undermine the Daintree community
and drive them off their land through economic sabotage.