Negotiations are currently underway between the Coober Pedy District Council and the Hon Michael O’Brien MP, the Minister for Energy in South Australia following community outrage over what outback residents and businesses consider to be a bungled attempt at providing cost effective energy to remote areas of the state.
Mayor Steve Baines of Coober Pedy accompanied by Damien Clark Financial Manager of the DCCP and Lyn Breuer MP the Member for Giles attended a scheduled meeting on Thursday at 3.30pm with the Energy minister Michael O’Brien, and also Owen Brown Media Adviser to Premier Mike Rann.
Although nobody from the DTEI office attended the meeting, Mayor Steve Baines said he was encouraged by the reception from the Energy minister.
During the meeting which lasted just over an hour, Coober Pedy’s mayor requested that consideration be given to the equalisation of power supply charges across the state. “In Qld and WA, for example, the contribution for subsidising electricity is $66 per capita, whereas in South Australia it only costs $3.00 per head in comparison”, said the Mayor.
Further to this, Steve Baines said that he raised the concern that the two largest consumers of electricity, Coober Pedy and Andamooka were not yet on the state electricity grid. According to Mr. Baines, the Energy minister Michael O’Brien was receptive to this suggestion and stated that the government would undertake a costing for the two towns to be connected to the grid.
Mayor Steve Baines said he condemned the lack of communication which resulted in only 4 weeks notice being given prior to being ‘told’ of an immediate price rise in electricity. “No impact study was done in this instance and there should have been at least three or four months discussions with DCCP prior to any remodelling of the electricity rates”, he said.
The communities were said to have been notified by way of a standard media release from DTEI. “Minister O’Brien has apologised for the manner in which this was undertaken”, said Mayor Baines.
“We have asked for the decision to increase remote area electricity charges to be revoked. The Coober Pedy District Council has not implemented the proposed tariffs and will not do so until these issues are resolved and we hear back from Ministers. Minister Michael O’Brien is yet to speak with DTEI executives to clarify what they intend doing about these increases”, said Mayor Baines.
Robert Coro, Chairperson of the Coober Pedy Retail, Business and Tourism Association representing 52 businesses in the Coober Pedy area said today, “I am pleased that dialogue has commenced between the State Government and the Coober Pedy District Council. We look forward to commonsense prevailing in this instance and also in the future.”
Since the announcement of the increased electricity tariffs remote residents and businesses have feared that the inequality of the escalated electricity prices will cause extreme hardship across the state.