Underground resistance

GETTING underground power has turned into a class war, says Stirling council.

Calling for the McGowan government to review the state’s underground power program, the council says it has turned into a commercial bidding war that favours the rich and pits councils against each other.

Stirling staff say they’re being forced to offer more than the usual 50 per cent council contribution just to get a look-in with the Underground Power Steering Committee, which is made up of members from WA Treasury, Western Power and the WA Local Government Association.

“Property owners in lower socio-economic areas are unlikely to ever be granted projects due to the reduced ability for residents to make payments, and this likelihood reduces even further when local governments are required to bid competitively against each other to be selected for a program,” officers wrote in a report to last week’s council meeting.

“The program now appears to be aimed at higher socio-economic areas where there is an ability/willingness of property owners to make increased payments, rather than the initial aim of the SUPP to reduce risks associated with storm events and impact on service reliability.

“The city has for many years held concerns about the principles and the equity of the state underground power program.”

The report also noted that if the council upped its bid to get projects through, the added cost would be borne by ratepayers.

Stirling mayor Mark Irwin said while there were obvious benefits to underground power, he wants to be sure the financial impact on property owners is fully considered.

“[Stirling council] seeks to influence the WA Local Government Association and other local government authorities to advocate for more favourable terms and conditions for affected property owners,” Mr Irwin said.

“The Menora SUPP installation is now tracking well, and we will continue to update residents on project progress via the city’s website.”

The council voted unanimously to write to the McGowan government and other stakeholders requesting a review before the next round of the program.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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