Hinchinbrook MP, Andrew Cripps, has accused Queensland Government owned power giant, Ergon Energy, of undermining the marine safety of all public and private vessels across the Cassowary Coast Region, by compromising the Tully Coastguard’s communications system.
Mr Cripps said since 2001, the Tully Coastguard has had a radio installation co-located with Ergon Energy infrastructure on top of Mount Mackay – east of Tully – providing a VHF and UHF radio coverage radius of approximately 80 nautical miles, but that arrangement is now under threat.
“Ergon Energy now wants $10,000 upfront and an annual fee of more than $10,000 for the Tully Coastguard to keep its radio installation on Mount Mackay, which is well beyond their budget, given most of its funding comes from donations and local community fundraising” said Mr Cripps.
“For 15 years there has been a ‘gentleman’s agreement’, but I’m amazed and appalled by what now appears to be Ergon Energy taking advantage of a community based, volunteer and not-for-profit organisation, which provides an important safety service to the local community” he said.
“I’ve written to Energy Minister, Mark Bailey, expressing my anger and disgust at the attitude of Ergon Energy and I’ve requested his intervention and direction to withdraw the requirement for the Tully Coastguard to pay to continue to co-locate its radio installation on top of Mount Mackay”.
Mr Cripps said it was particularly galling to find out that Ergon Energy was seeking to extract large sums of money out of the Tully Coastguard, considering the number and nature of the other users that also have infrastructure located at the Mount Mackay site, including Ergon Energy itself.
“At least five Queensland Government services have communications infrastructure located at this site, including the Queensland Police Service, Queensland Ambulance Service, Queensland Fire and Emergency Service, State Emergency Service and Maritime Safety Queensland”.
“In addition to calls for assistance from private vessels, the Tully Coastguard responds to requests for support from the police, the ambulance, the Australian Army and the Australian Border Force, so Ergon Energy’s behavior could really impact on a vital public and community service”.
Mr Cripps said if the Tully Coastguard was forced into a costly relocation of its radio infrastructure to its operational base at Hull Heads – its radio coverage area would be severely reduced, which would compromise the maritime safety of all vessels across the Cassowary Coast Region.
A petition and e-petition has been established to object to Ergon Energy’s proposal and is available to sign at various locations across the Cassowary Coast Region, or via the Queensland Parliamentary website http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-assembly/petitions/e-petitions.