Early History of Electricity Supply in Mallacoota

Tom Davies (a very experienced diesel mechanic) supplied Mallacoota with electricity on a private basis for many, many years.

He installed his own diesel generator, power poles, wiring; the lot.

Even though his charges had to be higher than a government subsidized scheme, it worked well.

During the 1960s Victoria was ‘modernized’ and electricity supply was common everywhere. The last town without a power supply was Mallacoota. To be able for Victoria to claim a completely finished scheme, Mallacoota needed to be electrified as well.

But without involvement of the people of the town such a scheme would have been too expensive. Everybody was asked to contribute and most agree. A few households demurred, as they thought it was the duty of the Government to supply amenities.

Late 1960s or early 1970s we had SEC power supplied to the town. To honour the occasion a huge marquee was erected and everybody was invited to celebrate that the last town in Victoria was now up to date.

The celebration occurred after dark to allow the marquee to be lit up with an abundance of lights, like never seen before. My recollections of the ‘electricity saga’ are a little hazy, it all happened app. 40 years ago. But the next event is clearly imbedded in my memory.

Politicians, and other important dignitaries, descended on Mallacoota and postured in the well lit, very well attended marquee. (Packed, standing room only).

Many self-serving speeches droned along, including a long diatribe by the then Minister Balfour. Renee Arendsen, who stood right next to me, had enough, and in her clear, well modulated voice yelled, "ENOUGH OF THE BULLSHIT, GET ON WITH THE BEER!"

I can still hear it! Of course, in this mega lit marquee, all eyes swiveled right round to us. I felt I could have happily drilled a hole in the ground and disappeared.

Eventually the beer flowed freely and I can’t remember too much more.

Sadly Tom Davies is long gone. During his reign as the supplier of civilizing electricity in our small community, we hardly ever had a power failure. And none was longer than between 5 minutes and maybe an hour. His charges seemed high (20c/kw) but even these are now common place.

So, what can we do to avoid these extremely long and inconvenient and for some people live threatening electricity interruptions?

  1. Keep SP AusNet up to paying penalty rates for these interruptions. (Thank you Laurie Hamilton for tallying the penalty scores for all of us!).
  2. Keep demanding an auxiliary power supply generator to be stationed in Mallacoota at all times. Just as old Tom successfully did in the past.
  3. Think about a community generated effort to install a wind-powered turbine and solar power to supply the whole town. Even SP AusNet might be interested to contribute. The reality to maintain the long supply line through the wilderness that separates us from the rest of Victoria must cost a fortune; apart of the penalty rates being paid every time there is a power failure...
  4. Solar Hot Water did work during the recent wet weather, despite it being overcast nearly all the time. Of course the water was rather luke warm. I believe there is still an offer of a government subsidy for such solar hot water schemes.
  5. It is unfortunate that the Power generation was privatized. Private, short-lived company do not have as a rule the long term well being of their customer at heart.
  6. Another much muted idea was to make the big effort and have the power relocated under ground.

Mallacoota is wonderfully green and trees will unfortunately continue to fall over the frail power-lines. A lot of endless trimming of trees near power lines would be eliminated.

Past experiences are very good lessons that might offer some solutions and to find another way of looking at the problem.

What are YOUR recollections of the long gone events and the latest mayhem? How can we all work towards a better Mallacoota?

And what has happened to all that free beer??

Peter Kurz
20/07/2012