South Burnett has been encouraged to take steps to remain viable after the proposed Tarong Power Station closure.
South Burnett has been encouraged to take steps to remain viable after the proposed Tarong Power Station closure. Katherine Morris

LIFE AFTER COAL: How we can learn from a small country town

THE South Burnett region has begun preparing for life after the Tarong Power Station.

According to the National Electricity Market, the four Tarong Power Station turbines are expected to close by 2037.

But, as the country faces a strong push to move away from coal energy, how does the South Burnett region keep the hundreds of Tarong employees, and their families, in the region when they no longer have a job?

 

WALK OFF: Contracted workers walk off the job at Tarong power station disputing changes to the enterprise bargaining agreement.
KEEPING JOBS: A viable plan for the region, including new industry and employment, is needed after the expected Tarong Power Station closure. Matt Collins

As part of a Kingaroy energy forum last week, held to present bright ideas for a renewable future, a range of strong suggestions were put forward to the region.

 

RENEWABLES: Amanda Cahill, Tim Buckley, Vicki Perrin and Wendy Farmer at the KCCG Kingaroy Energy Forum.
RENEWABLES: Amanda Cahill, Tim Buckley, Vicki Perrin and Wendy Farmer at the KCCG Kingaroy Energy Forum. Matt Collins

One of the speakers at the Kingaroy Concerned Citizens Group event was president of the Voices of the Valley association, Wendy Farmer.

Voices of the Valley is a volunteer organisation based in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria.

 

'Investors will come on': Voices of the Valley president, Wendy Farmer.
'INVESTORS WILL COME ON': Voices of the Valley president, Wendy Farmer. Matt Collins

The group was created after the news of the expected closure of the Hazelwood mine, a coal mine twice the size of Tarong Power Station.

Ms Farmer was concerned about her community and she didn't feel like enough was being done in the lead-up to the Hazelwood mine closure.

"If you only rely on one source, you are in big trouble if something happens," Ms Farmer said.

The Hazelwood mine did close in March 2017, and according to Ms Farmer, thanks to the Voices of the Valley organisation, the community has since witnessed some significant results.

"Our house prices have gone up, we have got more employment now," she said.

"We are always pushing those boundaries for what needs to change."

In the lead-up to the expected closure of South Burnett's Tarong Power Station, the Voices of the Valley president said while there was a lot of work ahead, the region could remain optimistic.

"There is no reason why the town could not be more viable," she said.

She said the key was remaining persistent and pushing for what the region needed.

"We said we needed a health zone. They (the council) told us, 'don't be stupid, you can't have a health zone'," Ms Farmer said.

"We now have Australia's first heath innovation centre.

"A town can be viable but they have to push for what they want.

"They have to be advocates for what they want.

"Investors will come on. They have to set up somewhere."

Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said there were a range of technical and commercial issues and market conditions that were taken into account to forecast life expectancy of a power station.

"Decisions to continue to operate a power station, for example by refurbishing it to potentially extend its operating life, ultimately lie with the owner," he said.