EXCLUSIVE: $5m major development pitch for Whitsundays
A MULTI-million dollar development has been proposed for the Whitsunday region to ensure residents don't suffer weeks without power - again.
It comes as Ergon Energy admits its existing site can no longer support the "safe and efficient operation" of the region's electricity network.
More than 45,000 homes in the Whitsundays were cut off from electricity in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Debbie; which devastated the region in March 2017.
The storm brought down about 800 powerlines, damaged about 650 poles and cut power to 65,000 customers across regional Queensland.
Now, Ergon Energy has plans for a more efficient electrical emergency service with a proposed $5.15 million development at Cannonvale, saying the damage sustained during the massive storm rendered the existing facility "un-fit".
Ergon has submitted an application to Whitsunday Regional Council to build a brand new warehouse and office.
The application was submitted on April 2. A decision is yet to be made by the council.
The proposed site - to be known as 'Whitsunday Coast Depot' - on Galbraith Dr in Cannonvale is closer to the major population centre and growth areas where power outages impact more customers.
Within the application Ergon states; "the Proserpine Depot is no longer capable of supporting the safe and efficient operation and maintenance of the electricity network in the Whitsundays Region due to damage to the building from Tropical Cyclone Debbie and subsequent issues which have rendered the facility un-fit for occupation.
"Redevelopment of the site was further ruled out due to size and (location) constraints. As such, the proposed development site at Cannonvale has been carefully selected to accommodate the replacement facility.
"The proposed 'Whitsunday Coast' Depot represents a significant capital investment by Ergon Energy in the Whitsunday Region".
If approved Ergon's existing depot in Proserpine would be used as a storage facility for network hardware and an alternative staging post for emergency response.
Ergon's area manager Dan Werthenbach said in the event of flooding, crews would have access to hardware at Cannonvale and Proserpine.
"Storing supplies at multiple sites makes sense in an area where storm debris and flooding have the potential to impede access to work sites and delay restoration," Mr Werthenbach said.
"While we were pleased to be able to restore power to all affected customers within two weeks of Cyclone Debbie making landfall, our aim is to continually improve our response times whether it is business as usual or disaster response."
Queensland Government Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said Ergon Energy has identified the ideal site for a new operational depot to help deliver more efficient service to customers across the Whitsundays.
Dr Lynham said Ergon had allocated $5.15 million, as part of the 2019-20 Queensland Government Budget to the proposed development. more customers.
"Being in a more central location will improve response times in the event of unplanned outages, especially if there is damage requiring emergency repairs to the network," he said.
"From every disaster we take away valuable lessons, which inform emergency planning and response,'' Dr Lynham said.
"This is a classic example of using knowledge gained to be better prepared in the event of an emergency in the future.''
The new depot at Cannonvale will have improved access for heavy vehicles and wash-down facilities -an necessity for biosecurity in agricultural areas.
The council has been contacted for comment.