In February, I asked a question about power outages on the APY lands. I advised the council that I was contacted by a constituent from a homeland near Ernabella on the APY lands regarding ongoing power losses on her property and those of her neighbours nearby. This problem has been recurring for a number of years (in fact, since 2004) due to a faulty power line. Power losses have been regular and ETSA, which is contracted to repair the lines, has only been able to do patch-up jobs without properly addressing the issue. The constituent must often wait up to 48 hours for ETSA to restore the power.
I spoke about how the constituent must run a generator at her own expense due to the regular loss of electricity. She is seeking only that the power line in question be updated or maintained adequately—surely not too much to ask. In a recent letter to my office the constituent provided details of some 70 outages since 2004, and I am happy to provide this background to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The constituent has kept a detailed log of power failures on the Ernabella to Tjiwuru homelands line including all dates and the length of the outages.
If I share with members part of what the constituent has written in her recent letter, it will give a clearer idea of what she and her neighbours must deal with. It states:
Homeland people are forced to pay from their own pockets to supply fuel to generators and for their vehicles in order to obtain the fuel while waiting for the power to be restored. This is, of course, if there is a generator to use and it works, and someone is there to operate it. For example, in January 2011 I was working in Ernabella community. I travelled to work some 70 kilometres each day. When the power outages occurred in January on the 8 th to the 13 th , it meant I did not go to work because I was at home running the generator which had to be filled every four hours.
I have a mother in her seventies and a niece, who cannot start t he generator because it has a c ord to pull (no push button start), let alone keep topping up with fuel every four hours. I would really like to see some of you pull the cord on this generator to get it started and see just how many of you could do it.
The weather on the lands was up to 48 degrees Celsius outside and stifling inside. As I was on casual wages I only got paid for what I worked, which was a few hours. Needless to say, the power outages cost me loss of income. When a person has loss of income how are they expected to fill a generator with fuel?
The problem is that the power line has been operational since before 2004, because I have been living on it continuously since 1994 , but it has never been updated or maintained adequately. What was put in as a basic line and which did the job at the time, was never updated and maintained, such that no track was ever made for easy access of vehicles to get in to check the lines; no trees or branches cleared to ensure that trees do not fall on the lines; nor any lightning rods inserted to ensure that lightning hits other areas rather than the lines; different insulators used to spot holes in them more easily, or so that they do not break as easily.
It really is disgraceful that this resident and her neighbours have endured over 70 outages since 2004. Could you imagine residents in Adelaide putting up with this? Let us not forget that the homeland residents rely on electrical power to run their water supply, and so it is really concerning that the line continually fails and that the issue has not been properly addressed by the government.
As I mentioned, the constituent has advised my office that ETSA, sometimes after a 48‑hour wait, will restore power but it is just a matter of time before it fails again. I can accept that there will be occasional problems with electricity in remote areas, but surely a line can be maintained so that outages occur far less frequently. It is now time for the government to take action to help alleviate this problem for these homeland residents. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Energy must work together to solve this ongoing problem.