Smelter ‘fix’ to over supply
With all the controversy about coal-fired power stations becoming redundant and aluminium smelters “freezing”, perhaps a little background would be of interest.
In the 1950s, NSW experienced frequent blackouts due to inadequate power supply capacity: The state government, eventually, embarked on a crash program to build coal powered power stations, principally in the Hunter Valley.
A crash program it really was and it soon became apparent that the capacity being built far exceeded the potential load.
Our glorious politicians then embarked on another crash program to encourage new industries to take up the spare capacity.
The aluminium industry, not surprisingly, eagerly responded and built smelter capacity to take up the power supply-demand gap. The ‘start-up’ price for large parcels of power must have been extraordinarily low and probably below cost but remains a closely guarded secret to this day. And so we have the Tomago smelter apparently struggling to stay alive in the real world conditions of 2017. The whole thing is a bit of a beat up anyway. The smelting industry is migrating to Scandinavia and Iceland where there is an abundance of nice, clean, carbon-neutral hydro power.
Much has been written lately regarding development on the Tomaree Penisula. Two important problems face the local area that need to be adressed with long term planning.
Firstly, there is a need for economic development to provide jobs, especially for our young people. Secondly, there is the requirement to preserve our wonderful wildlife; both flora and fauna and their habitat. Both issues are interconnected and should be addressed together.
In general, we can provide for a growing population by building out i.e. spreading out into new areas, or building up into existing developed areas.
If we continue the existing process of providing new, low density housing by spreading into rural holdings and natural bushland, the environment we cherish so much will gradually be destroyed.
We only have to observe what is happening to the koala population and its habitat to see what is going to happen. I note the great work being done by local volunteers, to try to stem the destruction of our native wildlife e.g. the koala hospital proposal.
However, we should be addressing the cause of the problem, not just the effect. The problem is being caused by human encroachment into the natural environment. A recent example is the development of a housing estate in Corlette, where the bush was levelled. This is the type of development conservationists should be protesting about, not high rise development.
The other issue confronting our local area is the lack of jobs and services. Vacant shops are evident in Nelson Bay and other shopping centres. The recent closure of the CBA Bank branch in Nelson Bay should have been a warning to those groups who are "anti-development". They were conspicuous by their silence.
We need a greater, permanent population to encourage small business and job growth. This increased population needs to be housed. We can attract new residents by preserving our beautiful natural environment and providing the services they need e.g. a fully-functional hospital. We can only expect these services if we have a sufficient population to justify them.
Both the problem of preservation of wildlife and provision of sustainable development are able to be addressed by the new Port Stephens Council.
I ask that the new councillors (as well as, well-meaning conservationists) focus on these twin problems, and wish them a very much appreciated and successful term.