COOBER PEDY AND REMOTE AREAS “ELECTRICITY CRISIS MEETING” TO GO AHEAD

Outback Opal Mining Town of Coober Pedy

An URGENT PUBLIC MEETING scheduled for 10.30am on Sunday 15 May in Coober Pedy will go ahead despite last minute suggestions that the excessive electricity tariffs imposed on 13 Outback Towns will be “looked at” by the State Government.

In February this year, the State Government slashed the Remote Area Subsidy for electricity to 13 remote towns in South Australia’s Far North and continued to withhold $2 million + from a previously approved RAES allowance for Coober Pedy.   

Mayor Steve Baines of Coober Pedy said, “The first round of electricity bills have now been received by outback businesses reflecting up to 116% increases”. 

The District Council of Coober Pedy and the Coober Pedy Business and Tourism Association have subsequently called an URGENT PUBLIC MEETING where residents and business operators of 13 communities will hear from the District Council of Coober Pedy, Nick Xenophon, Independent Senator for SA, The Honourable John Darley MLC (a former Valuer-General) and regional business owners. 

URGENT PUBLIC MEETING
Where: Umoona Opal Mine and Museum
When: This Sunday, May 15
Time: 10.30am sharp
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!
DON’T LEAVE COOBER PEDY IN THE DARK!

On the eve of the ‘outback crisis meeting’, Minister for Energy, Michael O’Brien released to ABC Regional Radio (Late Afternoons with Annette Marner) a statement saying that the South Australian Government would now consider a “phased in approach to the new tariffs…. to reduce the impact of higher power bills on large consumers”.  

Member for Giles, Ms Lyn Breuer in an interview with Annette Marner also on Friday’s  Late Afternoons’ said, “the original plan to tariff the outback towns has been “put on hold” for a couple of years and that current electricity bills reflecting the higher rate will be reversed to reduce impact on large consumers”. Ms Breuer said the implementing of the electricity tariff was capable of closing down Coober Pedy. 

Mr. Athanasiadis of the Coober Pedy Retail, Business and Tourism Association said today, “The Public Crisis Meeting will go ahead as scheduled.  We only have verbal promises with different members of the Labor party saying different things.  There is nothing confirmed or in writing from the Energy Minister Mr. O’Brien. We will not believe any rumours”! 

There has been information released which would involve up to 190% increases to Coober Pedy electricity bills over a period of two years, according to the 2010 ‘Leaked Razor Gang Report’. 

The State Government’s claw-back of RAES subsidy funding will disadvantage every Coober Pedy resident and business with the blanket strategy impacting on 12 other small communities reliant on the RAES subsidy.   

Due to the State Government’s delay in paying a previously approved RAES allowance the District Council of Coober Pedy was forced to borrow $1.5M to avoid cash flow constraints within Council. 

The further reduction of the RAES allowance to remote towns, not on the national grid, coincides with another State Government decision to place a blanket price increase across SA Water customers to finance the Adelaide desalination plant.  The average South Australian home is set to pay approximately $400 in the first year and $900 in the second year to fund the desalination plant which is expected to be effective as from July 2011. 

In a radio interview (ABC News) on Saturday morning Energy Minister Mr. O’Brien said he had expected businesses in Coober Pedy could retrieve the excessive electricity charges from the tourists! 

Mr. O’Brien suggested in his Friday afternoon release that the decision to implement the higher electricity charges more slowly was in line with a proposed KPMG review of the RAES funding arrangement.  The “KPMG review will take into consideration the Government’s budgetary constraints….” he said. 

“….we will refine the subsidy arrangements for large consumers to adjust the levels of consumption at which the various higher tariffs cut in”, said O’Brien’s release.   

“This will allow those customers using the most electricity more time to adjust their business structure while KPMG undertakes a broader review of the 15-year-old RAES scheme.” 

“The review by KMPG will also look at the cost, practicality and financial feasibility of connecting some of the remote communities to the national grid.”