Tourism reputation at risk with power failures

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Lisa FavazzoMidwest Times
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Wildflowers 2012 A tourist takes photographs at Nature's Window Kalbarri Astrid Volzke / The West Australian *** OUT*** 26th August 2012
Camera IconWildflowers 2012 A tourist takes photographs at Nature's Window Kalbarri Astrid Volzke / The West Australian *** OUT*** 26th August 2012 Credit: WA News

Last week 1300 Kalbarri homes and businesses went without electricity for 16 hours as the temperature soared to almost 40C.

Residents say unplanned power cuts like the one last Tuesday — which many claim are part of life in Kalbarri — drain their pockets and damage their reputation with tourists.

Western Power says a microgrid, set to be operational this year, will make blackouts a thing of the past.

But after months of delays, residents are frustrated.

Buddha Bites cafe owner Cheyne Fletcher said WA tourists had been flocking to Kalbarri since the State border had closed.

“We could fill our venue twice if we wanted to,” he said.

He is concerned Kalbarri would “cop a bad name” for power cuts with this year’s tourists, who he said would usually be in Bali.

He estimated the latest power failure cost him $4000.

“People are spending top dollar to come here, and if I were a tourist I’d be spewing,” he said.

Local representatives share Mr Fletcher’s concerns the black-outs will tarnish Kalbarri’s reputation with tourists.

Northampton Shire president Craig Simkin said: “Western Power need to do something about it because it’s not giving the coastal spots a good look.”

Member for North West Central Vince Catania said Kalbarri residents had “every right to be annoyed”.

“Residents and thousands of tourists are continually forced to endure prolonged power outages, economic losses and inconvenience, particularly during difficult times when there’s bushfires or total fire bans,” he said.

The Nationals Party MP accused the Labor Government of “dragging their feet” in establishing a microgrid, meant to be fully operational months ago.

“We want the permanent fix nowand to be afforded the same level of priority, respect and equality as the metro area,” Mr Catania said.

The microgrid was announced in 2016 by former Liberal en-ergy minister Mike Nahan, who said it would be a “game changer” for the community at the time.

In February 2018, the Labor Government began implementing the project, with Western Power recruiting Clean Energy Made. The project was set to be operation by mid-2019, but trials have been pushed to May this year.

Western Power blamed delays on key microgrid delivery partner Carnegie Clean Energy going into administration.

“Western Power has been keeping the Kalbarri community regularly updated regarding the revised delivery schedule, and is committed to providing Kalbarri and regional towns with cleaner, more reliable and affordable power,” a spokesperson said.

Labor candidate for North West Central Cherie Sibosado thanked Kalbarri residents for their “patience as work was undertaken to fix (last week’s) fault”, encouraging those affected to apply for an $80 payment from Western Power.

“After extensive work by the State Government over the last four years to get the microgrid project off the ground, I look forward to seeing it come online and shore up electricity reliability for Kalbarri well into the future,” she said.

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