Tony Fontes has called out Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan’s plan for a coal-fired power plant, saying it will impact jobs and tourism in the region.
Tony Fontes has called out Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan’s plan for a coal-fired power plant, saying it will impact jobs and tourism in the region.

Reef fears fuelled at Costo’s coal-fire power plan

ENVIRONMENTAL activists have slammed a proposal for a coal fired power plant in Collinsville, citing impacts on tourism and the Great Barrier Reef as main concerns.

Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan last week announced an ambitious plan to inject $400 million into a coal-fired power station at Collinsville.

However, conservation groups in Airlie Beach have called out Mr Costigan's proposal, saying it would take an irreversible toll on the region's tourism sector.

Activist and retired dive operator Tony Fontes argued the call for a high-efficiency, low emissions plant in the Whitsunday region was "ridiculous".

He said Whitsunday politicians and candidates should not be campaigning for projects that degrade the reef as the region relies so heavily on it for income.

"We need to be looking after the reef … and investing $3 billion in a coal-fired power plant is going exactly in the wrong direction," he said.

"Over time, the importance of the reef to the Whitsunday community has not increased because there are other industries that have grown: mining, for example.

"(The) pressure on council and politicians is to cater to people beyond tourism that are dependent on the reef.

"But the world needs the reef, it goes beyond the community and I'm looking beyond the Whitsundays."

NQ First's candidate for Burdekin Carolyn Moriarty and NQ First Leader and Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan visited the Collinsville power station to announce a $400 million pledge for a new station if the party secures the balance of power at the upcoming state election.
NQ First's candidate for Burdekin Carolyn Moriarty and NQ First Leader and Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan visited the Collinsville power station to announce a $400 million pledge for a new station if the party secures the balance of power at the upcoming state election.

The plan for the power plant was unveiled last week, although a green light for the $400 million project rests on the NQ First party securing the balance of power at the state election.

Mr Costigan hoped his proposal would "promote jobs and economic development in the wake of coronavirus" while driving down the cost of electricity.

However, Mr Fontes argued the project would take at least eight years to build and believed sustainable energy projects would be more reliable and cost-effective by the time the plant was built.

He also believed the cost of the project would be borne by taxpayers.

"Right there, it's dead in the water," Mr Fontes said.

"Taxpayers are already paying high enough for electricity.

"Renewables are already cheaper and in eight years' time, who knows what's going to happen."

 

Tony Fontes (far left) and Jessa Lloyd (second from right) with committee members from the Whitsunday Conservation Council Dr Lindsay Simpson and Andrew Marshall.
Tony Fontes (far left) and Jessa Lloyd (second from right) with committee members from the Whitsunday Conservation Council Dr Lindsay Simpson and Andrew Marshall.

 

However, Mr Costigan believed the plant would drive down power prices and therefore benefit tourism operators.

He said anyone playing the "reef card" was worried his proposal would go ahead if he held the balance of power.

"I have no intention of killing Nemo, and I do not believe there would be an impact of Great Barrier Reef at all," Mr Costigan said.

"If you're a tourism operator in or near the reef, or on the coast, you will benefit because your electricity bills will come down significantly and the reliance of supply will go up."

Whitsunday Conservation Council spokeswoman Jessa Lloyd echoed Mr Fontes' concerns, saying a HELE-plant would have a direct negative impact on the region's residents working in the tourism sector.

"It will be North Queensland last if our politicians look to coal fired energy to fuel our state, particularly here in our region where we rely on a healthy reef to sustain our livelihoods," she said.

"Over the past five years, the Great Barrier Reef has suffered through the three biggest bleaching events on record, losing over 50 per cent of its hard-coral cover and the primary contributor to this is fossil fuel driven climate change.

"Our community needs a leader with innovative plans for a low carbon future, with the vision to position the Whitsundays as the heart of renewable energy projects as well as the heart of the reef because you can't have coral and coal."

Mr Fontes called on Whitsunday Regional Council and other tourism operators to show politicians they would support policies that in turn supported the reef.

"We need to lead by example, and this region that is dependent on the reef needs to lead by example," he said.

"We want all of Australia to follow our lead, and that is to support the reef by voting down any talk of a coal fire power plant."


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