Third world system stops regional growth

By Dairy News

WESTERN VICTORIAN dairy farmers Oonagh Kilpatrick, Koroit, and Bruce Knowles, Tyrendarra, have spread the message for the past two years that poles and wires should not be overlooked in the climate change debate.

They were given a confidence boost at this year’s United Dairyfarmers of Victoria conference in May which adopted four resolutions put forward by the Wannon branch highlighting shortfalls in regional planning.

Last month’s Warrnambool meeting called by the Wannon branch of the UDV to address the energy issue drew almost 90 people including dairy farmers, municipal councillors, politicians, business people and householders.

They approved a resolution demanding governments collaborate to reduce the cost of energy and provide infrastructure to provide electricity at adequate strength and reasonable cost.

There are high hopes a government-sponsored pilot scheme will start soon to upgrade single-phase supply lines in the Tyrendarra district where a recent study found all dairy operators were constrained by limitations of power supply.

“We need sensible policies that will drive prices down, not ideological dreams that drive prices up,” Mr Knowles said.

“At the crux of all this is the necessity for supply infrastructure upgrades — without that there won’t be growth in the regions.”

Mrs Kilpatrick, who sits on the UDV policy council, said she had heard of 175 per cent rises in electricity prices for some farmers in the past two years.

“This is totally unacceptable and appears to have been caused by historic ineffective long-term planning,” she said.

“We are told Australia has gone from being one of the cheapest energy providers to one of the most expensive while still offering what is perceived to be Third World infrastructure in rural communities that politicians say they would like to see grow.

“We need a poles and wire system that will allow proper feed-in and feed-out, thereby benefitting whole communities in the same way city-dwelling residents benefit.”

Inadequate powerline networks in many prime dairying districts have been cited as hindering regional development.

Requested powerline upgrades from single-phase to three-phase would enable access to baseload electricity and provide ability for businesses and households to host renewable energy production and feed into the main grid.

Mrs Kilpatrick cited an example of a young farmer located only 12 kilometres from a milk processing factory who had been quoted $385 000 to upgrade from SWER to a single-phasee power feeder line.

“If this user-pays up-front practice was removed the farmer could expand,” she said.

“Our message is gaining momentum as power bills increase and I encourage all members of farming communities to engage in the discussion.”