Let's have a progressive Port Pirie

The Port Pirie Regional Council area has opposed an innovative half-billion dollar renewable energy project that had overwhelming local support.

Renewable energy is the way of the future. Everyone with an open mind and not serving the fossil fuel industry recognises that. The renewable energy resources in the Port Pirie area are much the same as in the Port Augusta area. They are not being developed because of a council with no vision.

Think of what a difference five hundred million dollars worth of development would do to employment opportunities and the economy of the Port Pirie region.

This page was written 2018/07/04, last edited 2021/06/16
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©


A chronology
(Or a comedy of errors?)

May 2017
Council votes against the Crystal Brook Energy Park (CBEP);
March 2018
The first Flinders News poll: 83% of respondents vote in favour of the CBEP;
June 2018
Council votes against the Crystal Brook Energy Park again;
August 2019
CBEP given state government approval;
Second Flinders News poll: 74% of respondents vote in favour of the CBEP;
Port Pirie Mayor says that they opposed the project to 'represent our public'.

Council versus the environment and the people

In a world in which a climate emergency has been declared in 935 jurisdictions representing 206 million people (up to 1,986 jurisdictions and a billion people by June 2021) the Port Pirie Regional Council has opposed an innovative renewable energy development that would abate 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, fitted in with all the state wind farm guidelines, and had overwhelming support from the public.

Snowtown Wind Farm
Wind farm
Photo 2016/10/19
The Port Pirie Council's attitude to environmental matters was put on display when they destroyed remnant roadside vegetation at Crystal Brook in contravention of their own development plan back in mid 2016.

Restrictive zoning regulations discourage the building of wind farms in areas well suited for the purpose. (See my photo of an area ideally suited for wind power development, but zoned not suitable, on another page on this site.)

Their attitude to renewable energy developments was again displayed when the councillors voted unanimously to oppose the innovative Crystal Brook Energy Park (CBEP), a $350-$600 million project, even after it was modified specifically to fit in with the council's restrictive zoning regulations.

Hopefully it will be built in spite of Council's negativity; it was given state government approval in August 2019, the final decisions will be up to and Neoen.

The people of Australia are very much in favour of renewable energy, polling carried out by The Australia Institute in March 2017 found that of the 1420 people surveyed "67% said Australia was moving into renewable energy too slowly, including 35% saying much too slowly". The majority of Australians know we must reduce emissions if we are to limit climate change and ocean acidification, but the Port Pirie Council show no sign of caring.

Geoff Brock, South Australia's member of parliament for Frome, who lives in Port Pirie (and was for about six years Mayor), unlike the present council, has been very supportive of the Crystal Brook Energy Park.

A poll in the local newspaper net site

Poll; Flinders News Internet site
Poll results
This is the result of a poll conducted in the Flinders News, in and article written by Piper Denholm and dated 2018/03/07.
An online poll that was conducted by a local newspaper (results in the screen-shot on the right) indicated overwhelming support for the Crystal Brook Energy Park with five of every six respondents in favour of the project.

The author of this page, David Clarke, was not aware of the poll until the day before the writing of this section, 2018/07/25. I believed the poll to be important and revealing but I was unwilling to publish anything about it until I was able to confirm its existence and results on the following day.

On 2017/07/26 the poll results were available on a Flinders News online page titled Largest solar and wind powered hydrogen plant to be built at Crystal Brook. To see the result you will need to click on 'view results' on that page.

My impression has been that the Port Pirie newspaper management (the same people control both Port Pirie newspapers) have been biased against the Energy Park; they seemed much more inclined to publish negative rather than positive articles about it. The fact that the poll was not published in the newspaper (it was eventually published some months later) tended to confirm that impression. I suspect that the newspaper management were hoping for a negative result, which they would have published, but wanted to give minimal coverage to the positive result.


Another very negative article on the on-line Flinders News

There was another very negative article in the Flinders News on-line which also included a poll showing strong support for the energy park later, 2019/08/08, see below.
Of course the poll was not proof of anything, but having been carried out by a newspaper that was far from supportive of the energy park anyone would have to admit it was indicative of the public opinion.

It is perplexing that in spite of the overwhelming local support suggested by the poll and the valuable development that the Crystal Brook Energy Park would constitute, the Port Pirie Regional Council voted to oppose the project.

Renewable energy is growing hugely (elsewhere than Port Pirie)

Renewable energy in Oz
Graph credit: The Australia Institute
The graph on the right was published by The Australia Institute in its Climate and Energy National Energy Emissions Audit of July 2018.

It shows that total renewable energy generation share in Australia has gone from under 7% to nearly 18% in the ten years to the end of June 2018.

Wind power is also undergoing a growth spurt at the time this graph was produced, there were then 18 wind farms with a total of 3.2 GW of installed capacity under construction in Australia. When in operation these wind farms could be expected to increase the amount of wind power generation by 68%.

It seems that the Port Pirie Regional Council wants no part of this entirely positive growth in renewable energy.

Homestead garden area of Bowman Park
Bowman Park is just one of the local assets that will benefit from the $80,000 per year community funding promised by the proposers of Crystal Brook Energy Park
Drone photo, 2018/06/16

Some negativity near the proposed Crystal Brook Energy Park can be no more than a partial reason for Pt Pirie Councils opposition to renewable energy.

In the vicinity of the Crystal Brook Energy Park there are one or a few renewable energy opponents who want to win at any cost and have frightened decent people by spreading fiction about wind turbines. It seems that the Council has listened to them, but Council's opposition to renewable energy seems to go much deeper and further back than the CBEP.

So, considering

  • the popularity of renewable energy in the general population,
  • the popularity of the Crystal Brook Energy Park as indicated by two local polls,
  • the widely recognised urgency to act on climate change, ocean acidification and related problems,
  • the need for additional employment opportunities in the region,
  • the huge potential for renewable energy developments in the region as demonstrated by Port Augusta,
  • and the great economic benefits that the Energy Park will bring,
I find the Port Pirie Council's reluctance to support renewable energy very surprising.

Why the negativity to CBEP is unjustified

I have studied wind farms for more than the 15 years that they have been in South Australia. I've taken the trouble to sleep under operating wind turbines many times and had a good night's sleep every time. You will only hear wind turbines from a distance of two or more kilometres under ideal circumstances; if there is wind in nearby trees or if there is a car travelling at highway speed within a couple of kilometres these sounds will drown to the quiet swishing sound of the turbines.

Motor vehicles make much more noise than wind turbines, especially those with modified exhaust systems. On the other hand, manufacturers of wind turbines make them as quiet as possible. How many of the wind turbine opponents who complain about the noise that will come from a proposed wind farm have complained about the (often quite unnecessary) noise from motor vehicles?

If the opponents of Crystal Brook Energy Park, including Pt Pirie Council, manage to stop the development, they will be able to tell their grandchildren that their efforts increased the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere by 600,000 tonnes per year more than it needed to be. The ring-leaders will be able to say they did it by using deceit, misinformation, exaggeration and downright lies, the followers may be able to get by with admitting only to selfishness, gullibility and ignorance.

I would hate to have something like that on my conscience.

I have written about why I support the CBEP, and why everyone else should, elsewhere on this site.

This section added 2019/08/07

Council is out of touch with reality and with what people want

Out of touch with what the world needs and what the Australians want

A study published by the Australia Institute in September 2018 found that 73% of Australians were concerned about climate change and that 70% want government to replace coal fired power with renewable energy.

Out of touch with what the local people want


More negative bias in the Flinders News

The article that included the quote on the left, written by Flinders News reporter Piper Denholm, could only be called strongly negative and biased against the energy park. Ms Denholm apparently made no attempt to get comment from any of the many supporters of the development, and did not mention its value in reducing emissions and slowing climate change.

A reader of the article would get the impression that there was very little local support for the energy park, but this was far from the truth, it has strong local support (as shown by the two polls conducted by the same newspaper)!

In early August 2019, following the state government's approval of the Crystal Brook Energy Park, Port Pirie Council's Mayor, Leon Stephens, was reported in the Flinders News on-line as saying, in justification for Council's opposition to that development:
"We react to what our elected parties give to us and from the community, they came back to the elected members and said that they weren't happy with the process. Elected members took that on board and brought it through the chamber. That is our stand and we are only here to represent our public and that is what we did in this case."
The Mayor said this more than a year after a poll in a local newspaper, mentioned above, indicated 83% of the local people supported the energy park. It seems that either Council chose to listen only to the energy park opposition or they had their own agenda and reasons for wanting to stop this very positive, progressive and innovative project.

The second Flinders News poll

There was a second poll in the same Flinders News article. Late on 2019/08/08 the answers to the question: "Are you happy that the Crystal Brook Energy Park has been approved" was 74% yes and 26% no.

Quite plainly, the Port Pirie Council has been, and continues to be, out of touch with what the Australian people, and the local people, want.

Unlike the Port Pirie Regional Council, both the previous South Australian Labor, and current Liberal, Governments, and in particular, Energy Minister Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan, have been very supportive of renewable energy.