Further $2 million to sink power lines

Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
Power poles will be no more when the PUPP network is completed.
Camera IconPower poles will be no more when the PUPP network is completed. Credit: Pilbara News, Tom Zaunmayr.

Undergrounding of Onslow’s power network will begin in March after the Shire of Ashburton committed $2 million to the $8.4 million project to help bring the new infrastructure to town.

The Pilbara Underground Power Project has connected 2537 lots in South Hedland, Wedgefield, Roebourne and Karratha to date, replacing ageing overhead infrastructure with underground networks which are touted as a secure alternative during adverse weather.

Despite some level of angst in Karratha after cost blowouts associated with the project, a survey run by the Shire of Ashburton showed overwhelming community support for the project to proceed in Onslow. Of 641 respondents to the survey, 12 did not support the project.

Shire President Kerry White said undergrounding power was an important step in the transformation of Onslow into a cyclone-proof town.

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“Given our location and history the majority of Onslow has, over the years, been transformed to meet high cyclone standards,” she said.

“An underground power network is an important step in minimising the damage and disruption, ensuring everyone’s safety and well-being.”

$800,000 of the Shire’s funding component will be funded by landowners, approximately 9.5 percent of the total project cost. The rest of the $2,102,258 will come from the Chevron-operated Wheatstone Project ($900,000) and internal funds ($400,000).

Pilbara Development Commission chief executive Terry Hill said the project was a key part of the Pilbara Cities initiative.

“Onslow is quickly becoming the oil and gas epicentre of Australia; with that comes more jobs and more people moving to the coastal town,” he said.

“It is essential that all Pilbara towns have adequate core infrastructure, such as power, to support the growing population and economic activity.”

It is anticipated that works for underground power will be completed mid 2018.

A Horizon Power spokeswoman said the company had learnt from mistakes made in Karratha.

“PUPP has matured to a sophisticated project with a proven methodology after successfully completing works in Karratha, Roebourne South Hedland and Wedgefield,” she said/

“(We have a) governing body including external parties including members from the Pilbara Development Commission, Public Utilities Office and local government representatives to ensure the project maintains high standards and delivers on time and within budget.

“The project will endeavour to strengthen the local economy through housing of non-residential workers in the town of Onslow.”

The spokeswoman said improvements to the way PUPP was managed included monthly audits by an external auditor, reducing risk by breaking the project down to smaller parcels and utilising more local contractors.

Works are currently underway to connect the final suburb of Karratha.

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