A proposed $12bn pumped hydro scheme in Queensland has sparked controversy, as residents in the Pioneer Valley near Mackay react with fury to the expected property resumptions and what they see as the possible destruction of the surrounding environment.
This has resulted in a rally, set to be held on Saturday at Bluewater Quay, opposing the scheme. The event will feature a line-up of One Nation’s best, Senator Malcolm Roberts and former Dawson MP and One Nation senate candidate George Christensen.
Leila Verban, the founder of NO Hydro Save Netherdale/Eungella/Mt Dalrymple, has said the rally is a protest focused on opposing the proposed hydro scheme. Ms Verban’s Netherdale property in the Pioneer Valley is set to be wiped out by the mammoth 5GW Pioneer-Burdekin battery, one of about 50 homes in the project’s firing line.
The scheme serves as a linchpin for a broader $62bn energy plan designed to move Queensland onto a renewables base. If constructed, it would store and dispatch half of the state’s energy needs with renewable energy.
The project is viewed as an unfeasible distraction of Premier Anastasia Palaszczuk by many, including One Nation MPs and members. The Premier is seen as clutching at straws towards the end of a tenure stained by infrastructure slumber.
Australia has never successfully built a utility-scale pumped hydro. The $10 billion-plus disaster of Snowy Hydro 2.0 which Senator Roberts questioned at estimates just this week proves how impractical pumped hydro can be.
Like Snowy 2.0, Queensland Hydro is barely a thought bubble that now must find details to progress to reality.
Queensland Hydro, the entity charged with delivering the project, is aware of the rally but will not send anyone to it. Why are they hiding?
The gathering is booked for Bluewater Quay on Saturday at 10am. It is unclear if any Greens-aligned figures will attend, but why would they, this isn’t a Tasmanian dam, and no one supports them in these parts anyway.
The local Mackay MP has said she will not appear, further evidence of the major parties’ contempt for the concerns of locals.
The proposed hydro scheme has caused deep concern among many residents in the Pioneer Valley. Many have said the pristine wilderness would be “destroyed” to make way for the scheme. Others have pointed to the sheer destruction high voltage powerlines needed to conduct electricity from the area would inflict on local communities.
The rally’s founder, Leila Verban, hopes the event will be the first step in a larger information battle to push the public towards opposition to the hydro scheme. She sees it as a way to increase awareness among the general public, as many people are still not aware of the project or its impact on the region. She also hopes that having grassroots representatives and other people who can support the cause will help in opposing the scheme.
As the controversy surrounding the proposed hydro scheme continues, Queensland Hydro has begun the investigation and feasibility stage of the project, with plans to release a series of procurement packages directly to Mackay firms over the next six months.
The first packages released to the market will include work for an engineering geologist, an excavation contractor for test pits, a shallow borehole drilling contractor, groundwater monitoring of geotechnical boreholes, and geotechnical laboratory testing. The company has also put out a tender for front-end engineering design, which will drill into the technical requirements of the project. The winner will be announced on April 7.
The rally opposing the proposed hydro scheme is likely to attract a great deal of attention and will be closely watched by many people in Queensland. With One Nation’s hard-working MPs getting involved at the rally, it remains to be seen whether the rally will be a turning point in the controversy.
(Source; Townsville Bulletin, 16/2/23)