People power prevails, Ergon pulls the plug
AFTER more than a year of conflict between Ergon Energy and Warwick residents, the 110kv powerline route from Warwick to Stanthorpe has been scrapped.
Queensland Minister for Energy Mark McArdle confirmed on Saturday the powerline would not go ahead, on any of the five proposed land routes.
Instead, an existing 33kV power line that connects the two communities has been reinforced with a new voltage regulator at a cost of $225,000.
"A lot has changed since plans for the second line route were announced in 2011," Mr McArdle said.
"Demand forecasts show the load on the existing 110kV line has declined and the Newman Government's changes to rein in Labor's overly prescriptive 'gold-plating' standards mean Ergon Energy can find more affordable ways to deliver security of supply."
The upgrade of the existing line brings an end to the $60 million project for a new line, the source of a long-running battle between Ergon and Warwick residents, in particular, those who lived on or near the proposed line route five.
Initially, three line routes were proposed by Ergon - all of which were to run down the eastern side of Warwick, before two more line routes were proposed, with line route five to run down the western side of Warwick.
A Community Reference Group was established by Ergon Energy and Local Member for Parliament, Lawrence Springborg, in order to give residents a say in the process.
However, line route five was proposed after the establishment of the CRG and line route five was subsequently chosen by the CRG.
The CRG comprised of residents from the east of Warwick, without residents in the western suburbs having a say - and in many cases, without them knowing the project was to include a powerline on or near their property.
Tensions ran high between Ergon Energy and Warwick residents who formed the United Land Owners Group, a group which fought route five on the basis they had been uninvolved in a process that they claimed was flawed and unethical.
After six months of lengthy discussions between Ergon and ULOG, with local member Lawrence Springborg and Mr McArdle also getting involved, a solution for all parties has been agreed upon.
ULOG spokesman Gerard Berreen-Keogh said the upgrade of the existing powerline was a course of action that would suit everyone.
"I think it's the best solution for everyone," Mr Berreen-Keogh said.
"I've always said Stanthorpe is part of our community because they are our neighbours and we didn't want to deprive them of power.
"We also didn't want to throw onto the neighbours what was done to us (residents along route five).
"The best possible outcome for everyone was what we were trying to achieve and for our community, I'm happy."
Mr Berreen-Keogh thanked the community for their support.
"They (people in the community) have stood up and been counted," he said.
"We wouldn't have achieved it without our united community, including ULOG management.
"I thank Mr McArdle and Mr Springborg - they have worked hard to help us achieve the outcome - as well as Ergon, they worked with us and were very understanding of our concerns.
"This outcome just shows what can be achieved when all sides sit amicably around the table and discuss things."
Mr Springborg said the new solution was a win-win for the community and Ergon Energy because it addressed the concerns of local landholders.
"The new arrangement will come as a welcome relief, especially to property owners along the five short-listed route options," Mr Springborg said.
"A project has also begun to upgrade the existing 110kV power line by replacing all wooden cross-arms with a composite fibre type, while 25 poles will also be replaced."
Mr Springborg said Ergon Energy would continue to engage with businesses, farmers and residents in the Stanthorpe region to assure them the new approach would still deliver the level of reliability they rightly expect.