4 July, 2023
Council rejects Energex depot location change
THE Esk-based Energex Depot faces an uncertain future after Somerset Regional Council refused a development application by Energex to build a multi-use regional depot on residential land at Esk.
A group of Energex staff and Electrical Trades Union (ETU) members converged at the Kilcoy Information Centre at the time of the Council’s most recent ordinary meeting, on June 21.
Placards contained the words “Save Esk Energex Depot: Contact your councillor.”
ETU assistant secretary Stuart Traill said the current depot at 13 Highland Street was a health risk due to asbestos, and that “the moment there’s any airborne asbestos, that depot needs to be demolished”.
“We all know that asbestos is a life-threatening illness with no cure,” he said.
Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said it was “regrettable” that Council had to refuse the application but that the chosen location in Highland Street was unsuitable.
“The proposed location is on residential land and Council must consider impacts on visual and scenic amenity, traffic and noise nuisance,” Cr Lehmann said.
“The reality is the site simply didn’t meet the requirements of our planning scheme, or the State Government planning scheme so our hands are tied.
“With that said Council is, and has always been, committed to working with Energex to look at appropriate sites within Somerset to build a regional depot.”
Somerset Councillor Kylee Isidro said Council would work with Energex to find alternate suitable sites in Somerset.
“It makes sense to retain the (Energex) depot in the region,” Cr Isidro said.
“Losing the facility would impact on the families who live in the region and work for Energex, and it’s clear the community wants Energex to remain in Somerset.
“Council will extend an invitation to Energex and respective parties to work on identifying suitable land within Somerset for such a development.”
An Energex spokesperson said that after discussing their needs with Council many times over the past 10 years and being informed the redevelopment of the existing depot wouldn’t be supported, “Energex chose the Highland Street site as it’s appropriately sized for the proposed facility, (and) an ideal location for quick access to the highway and in a flood free zone”.
“The proposed depot is only 500 metres from the existing one on the same street, allowing for a central and rapid response to Esk residents and wider Brisbane Valley, particularly during storms, floods, fires and other emergency events when power restoration is urgently required and community safety is paramount,” the spokesperson said.
“Energex is disappointed that, after working with Council for many years, the application was not approved.
“Energex crews have been members of the Esk township for more than half a century and we will now be required to investigate all possible options to ensure the community continues to receive the prompt and first-class service our crews provide on a daily basis and in times of emergency.
“Energex’s Esk-based staff and their managers continue to work together and communicate about the current situation in terms of continuing to work out of the current depot and the impact Council’s decision has on that.
“Energex plans to, again, meet with Council to negotiate the best outcome for our dedicated staff and the electrical safety and security for wider Brisbane Valley community.”
Mr Traill said he thought it was “a positive step in the right direction to get around the table with all the relevant stakeholders to try and find a mutually beneficial outcome to keep the Esk depot in Esk”.
Mr Traill nevertheless expressed frustration “after (there were) three years of comprehensive consultation”.
“These towns have had the guts ripped out of them, whether it’s the railways disappearing, whether it’s the banks, (and) other large industries ripped out of them,” he said.
Adjacent property owner Grahame Rackley was among the residents who voiced disapproval at the location of the depot.
“We only purchased the property 12 months ago and it did not come up in any of the searches that there was a DA application being proposed for that,” he said.
Mr Rackley said issues included koala habitat, water run-off into his property, and public amenity.
“They didn’t address any of the issues that Council actually raised in their proposal; every time they came back it was half answered…I get both sides of it but at the end of the day it’s not the right location.”