KCCI president Rob Fitz-Herbert and Jandowae Chamber of Commerce president Celeste Nelson both want to see better telecommunications between Kingaroy and Dalby

August 30, 2018

The Kingaroy Chamber of Commerce and Industry has joined forces with the Jandowae Chamber of Commerce to press for better telecommunications between Kingaroy and Dalby.

The announcement was made at the quarterly AGL Coopers Gap community consultation meeting held at Cooranga North Hall on Thursday.

At present, many parts of AGL’s wind farm construction site are in a telecommunications black spot, and so are stretches of the Bunya Highway.

This poses problems for the co-ordination of emergency services.

Early this year, AGL began discussions with Telstra and other telecommunications companies about the problem, but abandoned the attempt when told of the costs.

Since then, Member for Maranoa David Littleproud has been drawn into the issue.

AGL Coopers Gap construction manager Tim Knill said he understood Mr Littleproud had used the involvement of both Chambers to approach Telstra and ask them to reassess their costings.

AGL also hoped to invite Regional Services Minister Senator Bridget McKenzie to the wind farm so she can see the problems at first hand.

The company hopes it will be able to report a more positive outcome to address black spot issues by the end of the year.

* * *

The Coopers Gap Wind Farm will generate $56 million in local expenditure during its construction phase, and seems likely to generate a further $47 million over its 25-year lifespan, according to figures presented by Mr Knill.

This money will benefit the South Burnett and Western Downs regions and Toowoomba where some contractors are based.

Construction work on the project generated 126 jobs last year, 595 jobs this year and is expected to produce another 452 jobs next year before the wind farm is commissioned.

The majority of those positions (62 per cent) were being filled by workers drawn from the South Burnett and Western Downs.

Mr Knill said councils and the communities surrounding the wind farm would also see benefits, with the wind farm contributing around $743,000 to the Western Downs and South Burnett Regional Councils, and the project’s community benefit fund contributing a further $870,000 over a 27-year period to Kumbia, Jandowae and Bell.

He saqid the data had been independently researched by consultants Elliott Whiteing and C Change Sustainable Solutions.

All up, AGL and its partners in the Powering Australian Renewables Fund are expected to spend $850 million on the wind farm.

While most construction employment is short-term, the wind farm is expected to create between 20 to 25 permanent, full-time jobs when it becomes operational mid-way through next year.

* * *

Niagara Road’s badly potholed single lane bitumen surface will be ripped up in a few weeks and converted to gravel to allow wind farm components to be moved to Coopers Gap.

Some hills will also be graded down so the wind farm’s 67 metre turbine blades can be transported without scraping on the ground.

Because of increased traffic caused by the wind farm’s construction, the road’s speed limit has been reduced to 60km/h, and one sharp corner to 40km/h.

Changes to the road will get under way when an infrastructure agreement between the South Burnett and Western Downs Regional Councils and wind farm project managers GE Catcon has been signed off.

When this occurs, the SBRC will carry out the work along its portion of Niagara Road, then hand it over for GE Catcon to use.

This will be on the understanding the company will return the road in the same condition once Coopers Gap is built.

The council will then put a four metre bitumen seal along its portion of Niagara Road, aiming to give local residents and other road users a better surface than the current one.

* * *

Almost half the concrete base pads for the wind farm’s 123 turbines will be built by the end of this week, and the remaining 63 will be built by the end of the year.

The meeting heard that difficulties with organising the transport of some of the turbine components from Brisbane Port to Coopers Gap meant that part of the project was running slightly behind schedule.

However, GE Catcon was confident any schedule slippage could be caught up in the next few months once the components were on site.

Some components which were not over-size could be transported relatively easily, the meeting was told.

But others – like the 67 metre turbine blades – would require an escort by police and emergency services.

Components will be transported from Brisbane to Dalby, then down the Bunya Highway to Coopers Gap.

Most shipments will occur after 11:00pm to minimise inconvenience to local residents and other road users, and will be advised on DTMR’s website.

Meanwhile, work on upgrading the intersection of Niagara Road and the Bunya Highway at Boyneside to accommodate the turning circle needed for shipments has now been completed.

The first turbine parts are expected to arrive at Coopers Gap next month.

* * *

Construction of a new electricity substation near Niagara Road has advanced dramatically in the past six months … in the past fortnight, two 200-tonne transformers were added to it

Two 200-tonne transformers were transported to the new electricity substation being built at Boyneside a few weeks ago.

Special trucks were required to transport the transformers more than 260km from the Port of Brisbane

The substation will transfer electricity generated by the wind farm into the State’s power grid.

While the substation will be able to operate with a single transformer, two will be used to provide redundancy if one fails or needs to be taken offline for repairs.

The transformers will also be separated from one another by a firewall to provide extra protection.

* * *

The location for a viewing platform which will allow tourists to safely view and photograph the wind farm will be investigated by GEC Catcon.

The idea, which was suggested by members of the community consultative committee at their last quarterly meeting, has been agreed to by AGL.

However, the company believes the location needs to be on Council land because siting a viewing area on private land would pose too many problems.

The meeting was told the best time to find a location would probably be after reconditioning work on Niagara Road had been done.

This was because road crews would need to find safe locations to park their equipment on the road’s verges as work progressed.

The sites of these “work camps” could be likely candidates for a viewing area.

* * *

Forty-five homes surrounding the wind farm now have solar power or – if they already had it – solar pumps to help cut electricity costs.

The free solar systems were installed by AGL at the company’s cost in compensation for any loss of visual amenity the wind farm might cause its neighbours.

Work on installing the systems began within weeks of the project receiving assent, and only a couple remain to be done.

* * *

The operation of the Coopers Gap Community Grants Fund may be reviewed.

The fund provides grants to community groups in Bell, Jandowae, Kumbia and smaller communities in between for worthwhile projects.

During construction, the fund will distribute $60,000 a year in two six-monthly rounds.

This will drop to $30,000 a year once the wind farm is built, but will continue for 25 years until the wind farm reaches the end of its working life.

At Thursday’s meeting, a delegation from Kumbia said that so far the majority of the fund’s grants had gone to groups in Bell and Jandowae, and very few of Kumbia’s grant applications had been successful.

They said they had received no feedback on why their grant applications failed, and would appreciate knowing if they were doing anything wrong.

A member of the grants committee said the fund had been swamped with applications since it began operating a year ago.

Committee members had to read and assess applications, then make a subjective assessment about which ones had more merit since the total value of requests exceeded the fund’s ability to meet them.

It was suggested representatives from the three towns be invited to sit on the grants committee, in rotation, to help ensure the merits of proposals from their own communities received a fair hearing.

Since the format of the fund had changed several times since it was first raised seven years ago, it was also suggested various ideas about how to administer it should also be reviewed.

The third round of the fund will open for applications on September 3 and close on September 28.

Successful grant applicants will be announced in October.

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