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News items from May – October 2009

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13 October 2009

Queanbeyan seeks community views on Edwin Land Parkway extension

Old Cooma Road at Barracks Creek

Queanbeyan City Council (QCC) is giving the community a chance to have their say on the extension of Edwin Land Parkway by placing the plans on public exhibition for 30 days, beginning on Tuesday 13 October 2009. During this time residents will be able to view the plans, gather information and comment on its construction.

Plans will be on display at the Queanbeyan Library at 257 Crawford St, Karabar Shopping Centre, and Jerrabomberra Shopping Centres during the consultation period.

Council will also be holding two public information sessions where residents will have the opportunity to look at the plans and ask QCC Council officers about the project. The first session will be held on Tuesday 27 October between 3pm and 7pm at the Queanbeyan Conference Centre, 253 Crawford St and the second on Thursday 29 October at the Jerrabomberra Community Centre between 6pm and 7.30pm.

The Edwin Land Parkway extension will be a two-lane single carriageway road which will extend from the existing termination point of Edwin Land Parkway located at the roundabout on Numeralia/Stringybark Drive in Jerrabomberra and connect through to Old Cooma Road just south of Candlebark Road past Barracks Creek Bridge in Karabar.

Work will also include realignment of Old Cooma Road. This will involve a new crossing over Barracks Creek, straightening the road and raising the road approximately one metre. This will improve the alignment and safety of Old Cooma Road. The intersection of Old Cooma Road and Edwin Land Parkway will be a controlled intersection using traffic lights.

The road will be constructed as a single carriageway to match the existing Edwin Land Parkway, with the exception of an additional slow lane for the climb from Old Cooma Rd.

The new section of Edwin Land Parkway will be approximately 2.3km in length and will have street lighting along the entire alignment. There will be an off-road cycle and pedestrian path constructed to join with the existing path on Edwin Land Parkway.

In Jerrabomberra, the roundabout on Numeralia/Stringybark Drive will remain in place. Along its route, work will include the construction of noise barriers, installation of double-glazed windows in two-storey properties and landscaping including the planting of shrubs.

Related links:

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12 October 2009

Consideration, but no date for Mt Urila digital TV upgrade

The Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, has responded to BURRA's request for funding assistance to upgrade the analog television transmitter on Mt Urila to a digital signal.

In a letter sent to Dr Mike Kelly MP, Senator Conroy has confirmed that households in Burra and Urila have been identified as areas likely to experience "deficit digital signal reception" when the analog signal is switched off in the first half of 2012. Over 350 households in Burra and Urila would benefit from the upgrade.

The Minister has established a Digital Switchover Taskforce within the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to coordinate Australia's conversion to digital television. The Taskforce will examine the digital conversion of analog self-help retransmission facilities, such as the transmitter on Mt Urila, provided under the Television Black Spots Program.

BURRA is seeking an early decision on the transmitter upgrade so that households can make informed decisions about upgrading their receiving equipment for a digital signal. Some households have been quoted over $1000 for the necessary antenna and electronic equipment to pick up the signal from Black Mountain Tower. This substantial committment by numerous households may not be necessary if the Mt Urila transmitter is upgraded.

Palerang Council, who has responsibility for routine maintenance to the transmitter on Mt Urila and another at Captains Flat have advised that they do not have the $70,000 available to complete the upgrade to the two transmitters. Palerang considers that the upgrade is not routine maintenance but capital expenditure. No budget has been allocated for this work in Palerang’s 2009-10 Draft Management Plan and Budget.

BURRA thanks Dr Kelly for his support and will continue to seek further information about this matter.

Related links:

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5 October 2009

ACTEW to respond to EIS issues

Public submissions on the Murrumbidgee to Googong Water Transfer Environmental Assessment have now closed. ACTEW has begun preparing responses to the submissions received and are aiming to finalise and resubmit the EIS/EA before the end of 2009.

A number of issues for ACTEW to address were raised in both the submissions and the information sessions held at the end of August and the first week in September. One issue which was raised by the community was the location, noise emission and operation of air and scour valves that are located at the high and low points of the pipeline. ACTEW is preparing a fact sheet on these valves for distribution in the near future.

ACTEW is continuing negotiations with directly affected landowners about construction access and easement acquisition for some local Williamsdale and Burra properties. ACTEW requires a temporary 40 metre width for construction, and a permanent 15 metre wide operational easement following completion of the project (approximately 18 months from commencement of construction).

ACTEW has prepared a Community Update which is available to download here (PDF 118 kb).

Related links:

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17 September 2009

Time extended for comments on ACTEW Pipeline

ACTEW have advised that the NSW Department of Planning will accept late submissions on the Murrumbidgee to Googong Water pipeline proposal.

Submissions will now be accepted until 2 October, 2009. The previously advertised closing date was Friday, 18 September 2009.

The formal public exhibition period closes this coming Friday, 18 September 2009 in both the ACT and NSW. The Environmental Assessment continues to be available for download on the ACTEW Water Security project website, ACTPLA website, or the NSW Department of Planning website.

The ACTEW project team are available to answer questions or provide further information about the project. First point of contact is Adina Cirson (telephone 02 6248 3563) or by email to watersecurity@actew.com.au.

ACTEW have advised that they will continue to be available for briefings, presentations or meetings upon request. Regular updates are also posted to the ACTEW Water Security - Major Projects Website

Related links:

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5 September 2009

Walter Raynolds elected Palerang Mayor

At its September meeting, Palerang Councillors elected Cr Walter Raynolds as Mayor and Cr Richard Graham as Deputy Mayor for 2009-10

Cr Raynolds first became a Tallaganda Shire Councillor in 1988 and has since served on numerous committees, external organisations and representative bodies throughout his local government career.

Cr Raynolds thanked Councillors for their support in electing him Mayor, adding that it made him feel very humble.

Cr Graham, of Mulloon, was elected to Palerang Council in the local government general elections in 2008. Cr Graham stood as an independent at that election and won his seat on Council with the highest personal vote in the poll.

The positions of Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected annually by Palerang Councillors.

Outgoing Mayor Cr Ian Marjason announced at the August meeting of Palerang Council that for personal reasons he would not be seeking re-election as Mayor and would not be recontesting his seat on Palerang Council at the next Local Government elections due to be held in 2012. Cr Marjason has served on Palerang Council since its formation in 2004 and was elected Mayor in 2008. He was previously a Councillor and Mayor of Yarrowlumla Shire Council.

Related links:

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13 August 2009

Pipeline EIS public exhibition date confirmed

ACTEW have confirmed that the Environmental Assessment (EA) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Murrmbidgee to Googong Transfer project will be on public exhibition from Monday, 17 August 2009.

Both the EA and EIS will be placed on public exhibition in NSW and the ACT for a minimum of 30 days and interested parties will be invited to make submissions.

ACTEW's Water Secruity Pipeline Project will be holding two community "drop-in" information sessions in the Burra Hall in late August. The session date and times are:

  • Thursday, 27 August 2009, 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm; and
  • Saturday, 29 August 2009, 10 am to 12.00 pm

ACTEW's information sessions are designed to give members of the community an opportunity to inspect detailed plans and ask questions of the Water Security Project team in attendance. Members of the community are invited to drop in at any time during opening hours on either day.

The Water Security Project will also be holding community drop-in information sessions in Canberra and Queanbeyan:

  • Olims Hotel Canberra, Corner of Ainslie and Limestone Ave, Braddon, ACT Tuesday 25 August, 11am-2pm

  • Tuggeranong Community Centre, 245 Cowlishaw Street, Greenway, ACT Tuesday 1 September, 10am-1pm

  • R.B Smith Community Centre, 262 Crawford Street, Queanbeyan, NSW Thursday 3 September, 10am-1pm

Related link:

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9 August 2009

Hazardous materials collection on 27 September

Palerang residents will be able to dispose of any hazardous household materials at a waste collection day at Burra Park on Sunday 27 September. The drop-off point will be at the recycling station at Burra Park and will be open between 8 am and 2:30 pm. Council staff will be in attendance.

Please note: Hazardous materials cannot be left at the recycling station at any other time.

Hazardous waste that can be disposed of on 27 September includes paints, solvents, organo-chlorine pesticides, garden and home chemicals, old medicines, gas bottles, fire extinguishers and batteries.

Quantities are limited to 20 litres or 20 kg and should be clearly labelled and well sealed. If you do not know the contents, label the container 'UNKNOWN CHEMICAL'. Wherever possible keep all chemicals in their original containers and never mix chemicals as this may produce dangerous reactions.

This collection day is co-funded by Palerang Council and the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change.

Related link:

  • Household Chemical CleanOut guide - includes in formation on labelling and the safe transportation of chemicals (NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change website)

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7 August 2009

ACTEW Pipeline EIS community information sessions announced

ACTEW's Water Secruity Pipeline Project has announced that they will be holding two community "drop-in" information sessions for the Murrumbidgee to Googong Transfer (pipeline) Environmental Assessment (EA) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in the Burra Hall in late August.

The session date and times are:

  • Thursday, 27 August 2009, 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm; and
  • Saturday, 29 August 2009, 10 am to 12.00 pm

The Murrumbidgee to Googong Water Transfer Environmental Assessment (EA) is currently undergoing adequacy review by the NSW Department of Planning. Following this, the EA (NSW) and the Environmental Impact Statement (ACT) will be lodged.

Both the EA and EIS will be placed on public exhibition in NSW and the ACT for a minimum of 30 days and interested parties will be invited to make submissions. It is expected that public exhibition will commence the week beginning 17 August 2009, but confirmation of this date will be sought now that the community drop-in sessions have been scheduled.

ACTEW's information sessions planned for late August are designed to give members of the community an opportunity to inspect detailed plans and ask questions of the Water Security Project team in attendance. Members of the community are invited to drop in at any time during opening hours on either day.

The Water Security Project will also be holding community drop-in information sessions in Canberra and Queanbeyan:

  • Olims Hotel Canberra, Corner of Ainslie and Limestone Ave, Braddon, ACT Tuesday 25 August, 11am-2pm

  • Tuggeranong Community Centre, 245 Cowlishaw Street, Greenway, ACT Tuesday 1 September, 10am-1pm

  • R.B Smith Community Centre, 262 Crawford Street, Queanbeyan, NSW Thursday 3 September, 10am-1pm

In related news, ACTEW Corporation has recently received advice that the NSW Government has declared the Murrumbidgee to Googong Water Transfer to be a critical infrastructure project under Section 75 of the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. According to a statement on the Water Security website, this recognises the urgent need to implement the project for the benefit of the region. Further information about critical infrastructure status can be obtained on the NSW Department of Planning website at www.planning.nsw.gov.au

Further information about the EIS information sessions will be posted on the BURRA website when available.

Related link:

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3 July 2009

ACTEW Pipeline EIS lodged for Adequacy review

ACTEW has lodged the Environmental Assessment in NSW for Adequacy review.  This is a four week process.

ACTEW has advised that it anticipates that lodgement of the Environmental Impact Statement will occur simultaneously in NSW and ACT following this review. It this is the case, the Public Exhibition of the EIS / EA likely to begin around 20 August 2009. Community groups and individuals will have 4 weeks to comment on the EIS from the date it is lodged.

Speaking on 666ABC radio this morning, ACTEW's CEO Mark Sullivan said that the Murrumbidgee Catchment Group had asked for the environmental data early so that they had time to fully assess the reports and include this in their comments to the EIS.

If all approvals are given, ACTEW anticipate that construction will commence early 2010 and will take approximately 18 months until operational. ACTEW are still in negotiations with approximately 25 private landholders who will be directly affected by the pipeline traversing their properties.

Related link:

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21 June 2009

Federal Minister to consider digital upgrade funding request

Federal MP for Eden-Monaro, Dr Mike Kelly, has referred BURRA's request for federal funding to upgrade the analog television transmitter on Mt Urila to Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, for consideration.

In a letter to BURRA dated 5 June 2009, Dr Kelly said that he had made representation to the Minister on the matter and would keep the community advised of progress. BURRA thanks Dr Kelly for his prompt action on this issue.

The analog television signal in Canberra and surrounds will be switched off sometime during the six month period starting 1 January 2012. BURRA is seeking an upgrade to a digital signal in advance of this date so that the many local families who rely on the signal can enjoy the benefits of digital television already available to metropolitan communities a short distance away.

The Federal Government has recently made one-off funding grants to improve digital television reception in the Para Escarpment in South Australia, Broadford in Victoria, and King Island in Tasmania.

Palerang Council, who has responsibility for routine maintenance to the transmitter on Mt Urila and another at Captains Flat have advised that they do not have the $70,000 available to complete the upgrade to the two transmitters. No budget has been allocated for this work in Palerang’s 2009-10 Draft Management Plan and Budget.

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4 June 2009

Digital upgrade funding sought

BURRA has written to Federal MP Mike Kelly seeking funding to upgrade the analog television transmitter in Burra to a digital signal.

In 2004, the Burra community was successful in obtaining Federal funds under the Television Black Spots Program (TVBSP) to install a television transmitter at Mt Urila. Many residents will remember the work put into this project by locals Betty Bearse and Rob Poole who organised a supporting petition, drafted and submitted the application (including a technical survey). Betty and Rob were also successful in lobbying the Commonwealth agency to amend their original decision and locate the transmitter Mt Urila in preference to Gibralter Hill as this would provide a service to the benefit of more residents.

The antenna on Mt Urila was commissioned in 2005 and continues to provide hundreds of households in Burra and Urila with a vastly improved television reception. When it was commissioned, some households received a free-to-air television signal for the first time. The transmitter is an analog-only signal. A digital signal is transmitted from Black Mountain Tower but due to the topography of Burra and Urila, some households cannot receive the signal without special installations and expensive equipment.

Under the terms of the installation, the Commonwealth Government provided funding for the infrastructure and Palerang Council assumed responsibility for the routine maintenance and the cost of the electricity supply. A transmitter at Captains Flat was installed under the same scheme.

The Australian Government has announced that all free-to-air television broadcasters in Australia will complete the switch from analog transmission to digital-only transmission by the end of 2013. The analog television signal in Canberra and surrounds will be switched off from 1 January 2012.

Palerang Council has advised that the upgrade to the two transmitters will cost $70,000 and have indicated that they do not have funds available to complete this work. No budget has been allocated for this work in Palerang’s 2009-10 Draft Management Plan and Budget.

An upgrade to a digital signal represents a change in technology, something that Palerang Council probably considers to be outside the scope of normal maintenance. While this may be a legitimate claim, the community at Burra wants to ensure that it is not left in a technology backwater. In terms of equity, other local government authorities in metropolitan areas are not required to fund upgrades to digital television signals from their resources.

While the switch-off date for the analog signal is over two years into the future, BURRA is seeking an upgrade to a digital signal in advance of this date so that the many local families who rely on the signal can enjoy the benefits of digital television already available to metropolitan communities a short distance away.

In response to a large number of emails and phone calls from local residents about the transmitter, BURRA contacted Palerang Council.  The matter was raised at the Council meeting in December and more recently by telephone with Council officers. Based on Palerang's response, BURRA has written to Dr Mike Kelly, Federal Member for Eden Monaro, to seek Federal Government assistance for the upgrade.

The Federal Government has announced a number of initiatives to address inadequacies in other digital technologies in regional areas, such as broadband, but there does not appear to be any scheme to assist outlying communities to upgrade analog television transmitters to a digital signal. However, the Federal Government has recently made one-off funding grants to improve digital television reception in the Para Escarpment in South Australia, Broadford in Victoria, and King Island in Tasmania.

Residents of Burra and Urila who support this initiative are encouraged to write to Dr Kelly and Palerang Council to express their views.

Hon Dr Mike Kelly MP
Member for Eden-Monaro
PO Box 214
Queanbeyan NSW 2620

Tel: (02) 6284 2211
Fax: (02) 6284 2250
Email: mike.kelly.mp@aph.gov.au

Palerang Council
PO Box 348
Bungendore NSW 2621

Email: records@palerang.nsw.gov.au

Related links:

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1 June 2009

Lake FM hits the Burra airwaves

Local wireless broadband provider, Yless4u in conjunction with Bywong resident Alex Colquitt has commissioned a low power FM radio transmitter operating on frequency 88mhz. The intended coverage area is the Burra Valley, with similar coverage to the local Burra TV translators.

The audio content is provided by Alex Colquitt, a resident of Bywong. The audio content is networked to the Mt Urila transmitter site via the Yless4u network.

Currently, the audio feed is a generic Bywong/Palerang feed under the call sign of Lake FM. However, the capability of providing a specific audio feed has been incorporated into the networking design. Yless4u are seeking feedback on whether a specific Burra-centric audio feed is required or of interest to the Burra community.

The LakeFM website has a program guide, the current playlist, and lists the current song and upcoming tracks. Listeners can make an online request from the station's entire music collection. Requests per user are limited to 6 requests in any one hour with up to 24 requests allowable in a 24 hour period.

Looking for a name

Alex and Yless4u have been thinking for a name for the Burra version of the Lake FM station. The Bywong feed is called LakeFM and is probably being not the right name for a Burra specific audio feed.

Any suggestions for a name for the Burra FM station can be sent to Alex (see below for contact details).

For further information regarding audio content, contact Alex Colquitt on 0408 635 784,
or by email to alex@bywong.com.au

Related links:


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1 June 2009

Facelift for the Burra tennis courts

Work to refurbish the surface of the tennis courts at Burra Park has commenced. The courts will be unavailable for approximately four weeks until earthworks are completed and the court markings replaced.

Over the past week the contractor, A D Vest of Hall, has removed the worn surface of the courts and has commenced spreading and compacting the new decomposed granite surface. The root systems of two large pine trees on the perimeter of the courts were interfering with court drainage and the trees have been removed by Palerang Council. Replacement trees will be planted when work on the court has been completed.

The total cost of the work is approximately $20,000, with $16,000 being allocated from Palerang's share of the Federal Government's Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. The balance of funding came from the Burra Tennis club and a portion of the Lions Club's gate takings from the Burra Open Garden 's weekend.

Refurbishment work has commenced n the tennis courts at Burra Park.A working bee was held to remove the old court tape markings prior to the commencement of the earthmoving work. When the resurfacing work is completed, the Tennis Club will be calling for volunteers to help replace the lines with new tapes. The netting around the courts will also be replaced as part of this project.

The courts, which were built in the 1950s, were reclaimed from chest-high phalaris and weeds in the mid-1970s by a group of local tennis enthusiasts. Since then, the courts have been maintained by volunteers and are available for community use. Regular Tuesday morning social tennis has been a feature of community life for many years. Unfortunately, the court surface had deteriorated to such an extent in recent years that both social and serious tennis players were deterred from using the courts.

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25 May 2009

Minister rejects boundary adjustment proposal

Burra/Urila/Royalla "cash cow" to remain tethered to Palerang

Local residents will continue to pay for a mistake made by the NSW Local Government Minister in February 2004 when local government boundaries were redrawn, leaving the Burra, Urila and parts of Royalla as an outpost.

Despite overwhelming support from the community affected, the current Minister for Local Government, Barbara Perry, has rejected BURRA’s proposal for the Burra/Urila/Royalla area to be relocated within Queanbeyan City Council. Nearly 50% of residents signed a supporting petition and of the 30 submissions received by the Boundaries Commission, only two opposed the proposal.

"No compelling reasons"

The report says that in the Commissions view, there are no compelling reasons to suggest that the boundary alteration proposal should be implemented.

The Commission also stated that it considers that implementation of the proposal is likely to have a significant impact on Palerang Council’s financial situation.  In the Commission’s view, Palerang Council has demonstrated that it is attempting to continue to provide adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities with respect to the proposed transfer area.

Palerang Council evidently argued that:

  • the proposal would result in loss of rates revenue (based on 2007 estimates by Palerang Council) of approximately $571,000 per annum, and an estimated loss of $130,410 in general purpose payments, and:

  • If Palerang Council were to have 621 properties transferred to Queanbeyan City Council, then it would take away a large sum of operating income (rates $571,000 and FAG’s $130,410). Palerang Council may have to contemplate further special rate variation increases.

In effect, our area is to remain within Palerang so that we can continue to fulfill our role as the Shire’s cash cow.  Our rates are needed to subsidise Bungendore, Braidwood and Captains Flat ratepayers so they do not have to pay more for the services they use – services like swimming pools and libraries which, because they are so far away from us, we are never likely to access.

The report also included an assertion that "Palerang Council has demonstrated that it is attempting to continue to provide adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities with respect to the proposed transfer area". Without having access to Palerang's submission, the community is unable to challenge or confirm this claim.

The full report, dated a 5th January 2009, is available on the Boundary Commission’s website (PDF 385 kb)

Process? What process?

The conduct of the inquiry and the deliberations of the Boundaries Commission have been conducted largely in secret. Although public submissions were accepted, in a departure from usual practice, no public inquiry was held and none of the submissions have been published on the Boundaries Commission's website, apart from BURRA's original proposal.

Communication from the Boundaries Commission has been exceptionally poor. Despite regular inquiries, both written and by telephone, staff from the Boundaries Commission have not been forthcoming with details of the inquiry's progress. A report was, apparently, presented to the Planning Minister, Hon Barbara Perry, in January although she advised representatives of BURRA in February that she had not seen a report "cross her desk".

BURRA was alerted that something had happened when we noticed that our proposal had been removed from the "current proposals" section of the Boundaries Commission website and "archived".  A call to the Commission revealed that, while the two Councils have already been informed of the outcome,  BURRA and the community (ie the 400 people who signed the original petition and lodged submissions) have not had the courtesy of a letter informing us of the decision.

A lack of process is not exclusively the domain of the Boundaries Commission. While the Community's submission has been in the public arena for a full two years, the ratepayers of Palerang are not privy to the views of Palerang Council nor can some of their assertions be tested.

At its meeting in August 2008, Palerang Council resolved to prepare a draft submission to the Boundaries Commission to be based on acknowledging the BURRA submission and present the draft submission to the newly elected Council at its first meeting in October 2008 for its input (see item 9.1). This did not happen, nor has the Palerang Council submission ever been made public.

What next?

Palerang Council has, apparently, told the Boundaries Commission that it is now open to providing a more equitable share of services and resources to Burra, Urila and Royalla. This is, at least, an acknowlegement that we were being shortchanged previously.

Palerang Council’s 2009/10 Draft Management Plan for is currently open for public submissions.  No doubt, Council would be happy to hear your suggestions on how you’d like YOUR money to be spent on providing YOUR area with a fair share of the basic necessities.

BURRA will prepare a detailed response to the Minister’s decision which we will publish on this website shortly.  Meanwhile, you may wish to read the Boundaries Commission report and then let the Minister and your local member know what you think of the decision and the process by writing to them at:

The Hon. Barbara PERRY
Minister for Local Government
Level 33 Governor Macquarie Tower,
1 Farrer Place
Sydney, NSW 2000

Phone (02) 9228 4820
Fax (02) 9228 4484
E-mail office@perry.minister.nsw.gov.au

The Hon Steve Whan MP,
Member for Monaro
110-112 Monaro Street
Queanbeyan, NSW 2620

Phone (02) 6299 4899
Fax (02) 6297 9998
E-mail  Monaro@parliament.nsw.gov.au

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21 May 2009

ACT Government identifies "preferred" sites for solar farm

The former Ingledene Forest west of Williamsdale has been earmarked by the ACT Government as one of two potential sites for a large-scale solar farm development. The other site is located near the Kowan Forest in the north of the ACT.

The Ingledene site, which was burnt out during the 2003 Canberra bushfires, is a 100 hectare site between the Naas Road and the Murrumbidgee river. It is dissected by Smiths Road and is to the north of Angle Crossing Road. The site is approximately 6 kilometres south of Tharwa and 4 kilometres west of Williamsdale.

The announcement of the sites coincides with the ACT Government’s call for expressions of interest to construct, own and operate the solar facility. The EIO documents related to this project do not preclude the successful tenderer from selecting a different site for the solar facility (see page 4-5). These documents also state that the successful tenderer must cover any shortfalls in output in electricity production at the Solar Facility by using renewable energy (see page 6). The Ingledene site would lend itself to hydro
co-generation drawing water from either the Murrumbidge or Naas Rivers.

ACTEW’s plans to offer land it is acquiring in Williamsdale to the developer of a large-scale solar facility could proceed regardless of this site not being included in the ACT Government’s preferred list. The site is close to a proposed substation and transmission lines and the soon-to-be-constructed Murrumbidgee to Googong water transfer pipeline may make the site more attractive for solar and gas-fired power generation than those nominated by the ACT Government.

Alternatively, the Ingledene or Kowan sites could be used for the "benign" large-scale solar farm while the residents of Williamsdale and surrounds get stuck with a large-scale gas-fired power station. A 210 MW gas-fired power station proposed by ActewAGL and other partners for Tuggernong was rejected by the nearby residents of urban Canberra. Soon after, ActewAGL announced plans for a 500 MW gas-fired power station in Williamsdale and is in the process conducting a feasibility study.

Solar farm community consultation process

The ACT Minister for Environment, the Hon Simon Corbell has announced plans for community consultation for the large-scale solar farm. The plans include announcements in Canberra newspapers and none for media outlets in nearby NSW.

BURRA will attempt to keep residents updated with information about the proposal via this website. However, we believe the onus is on the ACT Government to be good neighbours, look over the border and consult directly with the people of NSW who will be affected by the ACT's development plans in our backyard. We also urge our elected representatives be more proactive in representing the interests of their constituents who will be affected by both the solar farm and gas-fired power generation proposals.

Related links:

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6 May 2009

"Lucky" Williamsdale scores the trifecta

A gas-fired power station, an airport and a solar farm planned

A sequence of recent announcements by ACTEW and the ACT Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope, has lifted the lid on plans to turn rural land at Williamsdale into an industrial landscape.

An announcement on 17 April by ACTEW CEO Mark Sullivan that land would be made available to construct a solar farm was clearly designed to placate Williamsdale and Burra residents concerned about the construction of a 500 megawatt gas-fired power generation plant in our neighbourhood.

Any chance ACTEW had of brushing away concerns about gas-fired power generation at Williamsdale were delivered a blow by Jon Stanhope on Friday, 1 May when he commented on ABC radio that ACTEW and ActewAGL had plans to construct gas-fired power generation at Williamsdale and that this may hamper an existing plan to construct an airport at Williamsdale. These comments were made in reply to a caller to the ABC's "Chief Minister's Talkback" segment who had asked if the ACT Government would proceed with the shelved 2004 Williamsdale airport proposal.

Mr Stanhope's candid advice to a talkback caller has unwittingly exposed 12 months worth of denials from ACTEW about plans for a gas-fired power station at Williamsdale.

Solar farm announcement raises more questions than it answers

On 17 April, ACTEW announced their intention to offer land they are intending to purchase at Williamsdale to developers of a large-scale solar farm. In a letter sent to residents (PDF 77KB) on ACTEW's water security project mailing list, ACTEW CEO Mark Sullivan said:

. today ACTEW Corporation is announcing it is seeking to be an active participant in the development of commercial solar power generation for the ACT by making available land it owns at Williamsdale.

Members of the Burra and Williamsdale communities have been talking to us about the future use of this land at Williamsdale. I hope the announcement today, reiterated in this letter, reassures you of ACTEW's intentions for this land.

This announcement did not offer much reassurance, particularly since the ACT Government is actively encouraging solar farm proponents to incorporate fossil-fuel generation in their plans. In the April 2009 Solar Farm Q&A briefing, the ACT Government responded thus:

Q2. Will be possible to hybridise the power plant with fossil fuels? Concentrating solar power is possible to hybrid and thus reduce the electricity cost and increase the global efficiency.

A2. Yes, supplementary power generation would be encouraged to be incorporated into the solar power facility as long as the minimum solar energy or equivalent renewable capacity requirements are met.

In other words, the proponents can build the showpiece "benign" solar farm to generate 30 megawatts of solar energy, however, it appears the main game could be the fossil-fuelled (gas) co-generation plant on the same site. A pre-feasibility study of large scale solar generation prepared by Parsons Brinckerhoff for the ACT Government recommended gas-fired co-generation and put no upward limit on its generating capacity. ActewAGL are continuing a separate feasibility study into a 500 megawatt gas-fired power generation plant at Williamsdale.

The announcement that ACTEW are in the process of purchasing additional land for a solar farm at Williamsdale seems to make little commercial sense. The ACT Government has not released the preferred sites for the solar farm to the market, so unless ACTEW and its corporate arm ActewAGL have access to information not available to other proponents, it would appear to be highly speculative for ACTEW to purchase land at Williamsdale on the chance that it is one of the suitable sites. Even if it is, why is ACTEW being given a head start on other proponents who may not wish to deal through the ACTEW middle-man?

In light of these questions, BURRA sought more information from ACTEW, specifically:

  • What is the rural block number of the "additional" land purchase? ACTEW have already announced that they were purchasing Block 1653, District of Tuggeranong. Is this the same block?

  • What form of co-generation does ACTEW envisage for the proposed solar farm? Will it be gas, or hydro? If hydro, will it use water from the MGT pipeline? Will ACTEW categorically discard gas-fired as an option?

  • How will ACTEW consult with the nearby communities of Williamsdale, Burra, Royalla, Smiths Road etc? Not everybody who needs to know about this proposal is on the pipeline mailing list.

ACTEW sent a response (PDF 373 KB) that clarified some of these points. We have subsequently asked ACTEW if they have other plans for the land beyond a possible solar farm as it appears to be a highly speculative move to purchase land with no guarantees of the development proceeding. We have had no response to this question.

Where is the land?

The 460 hectare block of land is located between the Murrumbidgee River and the Monaro Highway and includes the current site of the Williamsdale petrol station. When combined with the land purchased in the adjoining Rural Block 1653, the total area in question is over 650 hectares.

Together with Transgrid, ACTEW participated in the purchase of the adjoining 206 hectare Rural Block 1653 for the purpose of constructing a 330,000/132,000V substation to provide a second point of electricity supply into the ACT. The $18.5 million transmission line project is awaiting approval by the ACT Government.

The construction of the substation and transmission lines makes the site more attractive for power generation facilities as it reduces the cost of grid connection and line conditioning for the electricity generator. The proximity of the soon-to-be-constructed Murrumbidgee to Googong water transfer pipeline also makes the site attractive for solar and gas-fired power generation. At a public meeting in Burra in December 2008, the Water Security Project team confirmed that they have been asked to include provision for water supply for a power station at Williamsdale in their plans.

In a statement provided to BURRA, ACTEW advised that it intends to keep the vendor's name confidential "until it is released publicly by the relevant authorities". ACTEW advises that the current occupant of the land will remain until further notice.

We concede that keeping the name of the vendor confidential is honourable, however we question if it is honourable for ACTEW to keep the Williamsdale and surrounding communities that will be affected by these industrial developments in the dark. The community has a right to be kept fully informed of significant changes to their neighbourhood.

Power co-generation options

In a September 2008 pre-feasibility study into establishing a large scale solar facility conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff for the ACT Government and ActewAGL highlighted the high costs of solar power generation and the variability of solar power generation. Parsons Brinckerhoff recommended gas-fired co-generation to overcome these problems (see page vii and Chapter 5 of the report).

Parsons Brinckerhoff's study nominated key criteria for site suitability of a large scale solar facility. Based on a nominal 22 MW solar thermal development, an area of 120 ha would be required. The reports' preliminary list of requirements of the physical characteristics for a location includes:

  • cleared land with no significant shading from vegetation, structures or hills;

  • level land with only a gentle gradient, preferably north-facing;

  • land suitable for access roads to all parts of the plant to allow regular vehicular access to solar reflectors

  • located as near as practical to a connection point to ActewAGL Distribution's high voltage transmission network;

  • access to a suitable gas supply, suitable for a nominal 22 MW gas-fired generation plant;

  • access to a water supply and waste water disposal;

  • appropriate separation from domestic residences and noise and visual impact-sensitive areas;

  • located so the site is not overlooked by significant population centres;

  • located away from major plumes or sources of dust which could obscure sunlight and coat reflector surfaces with a film that would reduce plant efficiency; and

  • appropriate zoning and environmental considerations.

The site at Williamsdale currently does not have any of the built infrastructure requirements – gas, water or transmission network connections – but, not coincidentally, ACTEW is now working to provide two of these. The Murrumbidgee to Googong water pipeline project would provide water to the site and the grid connection will be available through the TransGrid network connection and substation proposed for the adjoining rural block 1653.

Given that ACTEW and the ACT Government have known about the recommendations in the Parsons Brinckerhoff report for over six months - longer if, as is probable, ACTEW were one of the government agencies that were consulted about possible locations - why have various representatives of ACTEW waved away the prospect of a gas fired power station at Williamsdale and denied any connection to it? On several occasions in public meetings at Burra and on the Water Security Project website, ACTEW have claimed that the water pipeline project is not connected with a gas-fired power station. These statements now appear to be incorrect.

It also brings into question this statement provided to BURRA in April 2009 to explain ACTEW's involvement in a solar facility:

Gas fired power generation is not something which ACTEW is currently considering. ACTEW is seeking to await an energy policy review that the ACT Government has indicated it will conduct. The outcomes from this government review will guide ACTEW's future direction into what kind of generation should be pursued within the ACT. We believe this is also the position of ActewAGL.

ACTEW is splitting hairs. If they are planning to make land available for a solar facility, they are inevitably making land available for gas-fired power generation on the same site.

Williamsdale airport back under consideration

In September 2004, a report into the operational feasibility of an airport at Williamsdale was prepared for the ACT Government by Airport Technical Services Pty Ltd. It envisaged up to 40,000 aircraft movements per annum at the Airstrip.

The report assessed an area of land adjoining the Monaro Highway for its suitability for an airstrip. The area of land is depicted in the photograph below, taken from Airport Technical Services report (Figure 4, page 8). Coincidentally (or not), this is either the same block of land that is now being offered up by ACTEW for a solar and gas-fired co-generation facility, or it is the block next to it.

Site of proposed Williamsdale airport, from Airport Technical Services report (Figure 4, page 8)

On Friday, 1 May 2009, in answer to a question from a talkback caller on ABC radio, the ACT Chief Minister agreed to revisit the Williamsdale airport proposal. He noted that ACTEW and ActewAGL's plans for a gas-fired power facility may be an obstacle to the airport.

Mr Stanhope also said that rural and residential developments over the border in NSW were "a problem" for the ACT and their plans for the land . Yes, that's right. we are a problem, not the range of unsuitable, industrial developments that the ACT Government and its agencies want to lob into our neighbourhood far, far away from their own sensitive residents.

BURRA is seeking further information about the ACT Government's progress on the Williamsdale airport proposal.

Consulting with the community

To date, ACTEW have sent a letter to individuals and groups on their Water Security project mailing list about their plans to offer up the Williamsdale land for a solar power facility. Obviously, there are many individuals and communities who will be affected by the solar/gas-fired power plant who are not on the Water Security project mailing list. NSW residents of Williamsdale who live adjacent to the 650+ hectare site have reported that they have had no contact from ACTEW about this proposal. They have heard about ACTEW's plans to industrialise their rural neighbourhood via media releases.

ACTEW have yet to advise whether or not they intend to appoint a community liaison officer for this project.

While BURRA, a volunteer organisation, will continue to publicise any information we discover about planned electricity generation facilities in our midst, the onus is on ACTEW to communicate and consult directly with affected communities.

A larger question remains over the quality of the information that ACTEW is providing to the community. It is obvious that a gas-fired power station in some form has been part of ACTEW's plans for Williamsdale for a long time, at least for the past 12 months. The community discovered these plans in June 2008 when John Mackay, outgoing CEO of ActewAGL announced the plans in the media. We have been digging for information ever since. When asked directly about the proposal by the community, ACTEW and ActewAGL have waved it away as a remote possibility, or in the case of ACTEW tried to deny a connection to it at all.

ActewAGL and the ACT Government have been drip-feeding the communities around Williamsdale with bits of information; the palatable parts that won't frighten the horses. It is high time they came clean.

It is clear that together they have major plans for the area that will change its amenity and character forever. Residents (and potential residents) of Williamsdale and surrounds are entitled to be fully informed of these plans so that they can make decisions about their future. Who would want to invest in property or property improvements if they end up living next to a gas-fired power station or a busy airport?

It is long overdue for our elected representatives to step in and start representing the interests of NSW constituents who are concerned about these inappropriate industrial plans for this area. This observation applies specifically to the NSW Member for Monaro, Steve Whan who appears to be giving more weight to the 'alternative views' of constituents who he tells us support gas fired power generation but, fortunately for them live far away from the proposed site, including distant Bega. Mr Whan would be a better representative of his constituents in Queanbeyan and nearby rural areas if he chose, instead, to apply political pressure to the ACT Government and its agencies to disclose all relevant information that affects his constituents.

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Last updated: 14 March, 2010

© 2007 Burra Urila Residents and Ratepayers Association Inc