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Daintree Pollution

pollutiion in the daintree

Here is a bit of information that you will not see on other tourism websites, which try to attract you to the Daintree with nothing else than all the usual glorious of reports of how beautiful the area is and how wonderful your holiday will be.
Of course the Daintree area IS incredibly beautiful and special, and let me abolutely assure you that your holiday in the Daintree WILL be a great experience, but there is one issue I would like the world to be more aware of; the way the Daintree residents struggle to have some electricity in their houses and business, and the financial cost, inconvenience, suffering, and pollution it creates.
Not that you will see much of this, it is all hidden away, but it is there.
So please show some compassion for the business owners when the lights go off in the restaurant, or if there is no air-con or hair-dryer in your room, they do their best but it is not easy, living in an area where stubborn government denies you the most basic 21st century services....



A bit of history of this issue

When the area was originally subdivided in the 1970s the developer was supposed to have put all the services like power, water etc. in but thanks to corruption being rife at the time none of this was done and the developer saved himself some money and ran off with the cash. Plans had been drawn up for these services but never followed up on.
In later years when the area was finally recognized for its outstanding natural values authorities decided in the early 1990's that there was never going to be any mains power installed to discourage settlement which they thought would ruin the area.
So for years only Mike Berwick, the mayor of the shire until he lost his job in a state wide council amalgamation, and a handful of his neighbours enjoy mains power north of the Daintree river.
Many of of the 700 or so residents from the Daintree river to Cape Tribulation nowadays had solar power installed when subsidies were still available, but in a rainforest area with clouds, rain and lots of trees this is far from a practical solution, and a bit of a cruel joke on the residents who at one point believed their problems were over.

Pollution and energy poverty

In reality this ' renewable energy community' is running on generators most the time burning lots of petrol and diesel, nearly three million litres of fuel is trucked up every year which pumps 70 000 tonnes of CO2 into the rainforest. You will see the trucks travel across the ferry, and you may have to wait as the fuel trucks are not allowed to travel together with other traffic.
As it is very in-efficient to run a generator for only one household or business, it would be much better for the environment to have one big generator in a central location with a distribution network like every remote Aboriginal community around the country has. Even the greenies agree on this now but try to get the government to see this.
Generators are polluting and can be dangerous too; accidents have happened during refuelling where people got burned, many residents travel with jerrycans full of fuel in their cars, and to demonstrate the danger of generators further when residents of the Innisfail area used generators after cyclone Yasi knocked out mains power one man died and several other people had to be admitted to hospital all from inhaling exhaust fumes from generators.
Also at Cape Tribulation an entire battery bank exploded, fortunately nobody was injured.

International organisations such as the UN have identified the issue of "energy poverty" which means the lack of access to reliable electricity impacts on people with reduced quality of life through social problems, economic hardships caused by the high costs of trying to organize other energy sources and the limitations on economic activities that can be carried on, and in their 2010 UN summit they said it was shameful and unacceptable that in today's day and age there are still well over a billion people in this world that have no access to electricity!

Cairns Regional Council had a study done in to the issue which you can read here, but nothing has changed since then, none of the recommendations were followed up, as with most studies the Douglas Shire did.
In this report you can read about the issues this creates, including financial hardships, relationship break-ups, economic impediments, dangerous situations of fuel transport and storage, etc.

Rob at Rainforest Hideaway in Cape Tribulation calculated his electricity costs.
He is very careful with his energy use and over seven years the kwh meter had clocked up only 4500 kwh, at normal grid electricity price of 20 cents/kwh this amount of electricity would have only cost him $900.- over these seven years, if he lived in the city, or on Mike Berwick's street north of the Daintree river.
But he lives in Cape Tribulation and when you add up fuel for the generator, repairs and maintenance on generator and other equipment, and the replacement and depreciation of various equipment, mainly generators and batteries, his annual electricity bill adds up to about $3500 a year, which is roughly $25000.- over the seven years when this would have cost $900.- in the city!!!!!! That is about five dollars per kwh!!! That is well over $3000.- per year that city people could spend on a nice holiday or car or life necessities that is now spent on a basic little bit of electricity.
Just down the road from here is the restaurant Whet with an annual fuel bill of $60 000.- where a generator runs round the clock to keep fridges going, that means at least $55 000 per year that this young family could have had in their pockets, which has now gone up in smoke to pollute the planet, thanks to stupid government policy.
This impacts greatly on the quality of life and this is what the UN has defined as ENERGY POVERTY.
Update August 2011: The battery bank at Rainforest Hideaway has worn out, after only seven years, half of the time that the suppliers had promised. So that means that the owner has to fork out $4100.- for a new battery bank, money that people anywhere else in Australia on the grid, could use for a nice holiday or towards a new car, but now it has to be spent on batteries, and that is what the UN calls ENERGY POVERTY, having such high energy expenses that it has a major detrimental impact on your life!
Thanks very much Mike Berwick, Anna Bligh, Mark Bailey, Anastasia Palusczuk, Jackie Trad and all other hypocrits that keep the Daintree people in third world medieval living conditions!


One of the issues that has frustrated residents north of the Daintree river over the years is that Mike Berwick was against providing mains electricity to their houses, while there was a cable across the Daintree river providing mains electricity to Mike Berwick and his neighbours!
Mike voted NO at every meeting where provision of power was discussed, and thanks to this no-electricity stance people north of the Daintree river are today still living with petrol and diesel generators which pollute far more than grid power ever would, and they bear the sky high costs of this.
Subsidies for solar power have been available but were axed mid 2009, but solar power in the rainforest is a bit like hydro power in the desert, there is only a short time of the year where it actually works....

daintree power line
Warning sign for boats not to hit the
Daintree's only electricity cable

The ban on electricity was not only Mike's idea, it was general government policy years ago, but If Mike had devoted only a fraction of the time and effort he put in to his controversial townplan, in to the installation of an environmentally friendly mini-grid then residents and business could get rid of their noisy polluting generators and no more lead acid batteries would pile up around the place. During the tumultuous days when Mike's radical townplan kicked people off their freehold land when they could not build their house anymore a Three Point Plan was agreed on that said that when a new townplan and buyback targets were achieved that would prevent over-development then it was time for t grid power. The buyback targets have been achieved, the restrictive townplan is there and where is the grid power now?
While tourists are fed romantic sounding crap that they are visiting the largest renewable energy community in Australia, there is a steady stream of fuel trucks driving up and three million litres of diesel and petrol a year are being burned up by inefficient generators that need regular oil changes and repairs, and hundreds and hundreds of old and used lead-acid batteries are piling up, an environmental disaster in which Mike has played a major role.

dead batteries polluting the daintree
This is what shortsighted ignorant government policies lead to; besides polluting generators there is also the pollution of discarded worn out batteries, any type of grid would eliminate the need for batteries.
The Daintree is full of discarded lead-acid batteries like above, sulfuric acid leaching into rainforest streams.

There are many reasons why solar electricity does not work in the Daintree;

1. It is a rainforest, and three quarters of the year it either rains or it is cloudy, in 2010 Cape Tribulation received a rainfall of 8 metres! Yes, that is 8000 mm or 315 inches!!!!
2. In a rainforest you have trees, that create shade, and unless you clear all the trees on your block, which is illegal, then you will not get the full sun on the rare days that the sun does shine.
3. The installations are expensive to set up, the area has low incomes being dependent on seasonal tourism and the subsidies have been axed.
4. The stand alone systems require certain technical skills to manage them properly, and many householders do not have these, so the systems fall in to disrepair.
5. Even when you have an installation there will come a time every few years where you are up for amounts of $10 000,- or so to replace a battery bank or generator. At a house in Cape Tribulation the whole battery bank exploded one day, lucky nobody was injured and the house did not burn down.
6. The standalone systems require big battery banks, which are expensive and everytime they get replaced there is another pile of lead acid batteries that end up being dumped. If all households and business were connected with a mini-grid and one big back-up generator for the many rainy days this would be a much better outcome for both residents and the environment!
7. The solar systems are only just adequate for households who don't mind living with the restrictions of limited power, businesses that need to run fridges, freezers etc. have no choice but to run diesel generators 24 hours a day, even a modest size restaurant spends $1500 a week on diesel!
8. And even when you have a system set up, from time to time the generator will break down, and that means either two trips to the city, one to drop off, one to pick up the fixed generator, or get a mechanic to travel up to Cape Trib and charge you hundreds of dollars in travel time alone, or buy a new generator and get it installed. Either way your home is in darkness with no fridge, or your business is going to be closed for days and no compensation from the government of course.
Some residents have had to temporarily move out of their homes when they had no power to run fridges or lights, major inconveniences and financial disasters which do not belong in a western country in the 21st century.

exploded solar power batteries
Daintree residents are forced to buy large expensive battery banks if they don't want to run a generator around the clock.
This one at a Cape Tribulation house exploded, a disaster for both environment and the resident's household budget.


Some of the frustrated residents blame racism for their predicament. Only 30 km. further north lies the Aboriginal community of Wujul Wujul, which enjoys mains electricity. And where ever there is an indigenous community living in the desert or the Torres Strait the authorities will place a large generator and provide electricity to houses with cables, but in the Daintree area with mainly white people nothing like this happens and people have to fend for themselves to provide what everybody else takes for granted.


The Queensland government makes lots of green statements on their websites and spends $600 millioin a year subsidizing electricity tariffs around the state so everyone from Brisbane to Mount Isa to the Torres Strait pays the same for power. All Queenslanders, except for the Daintree...

More frustration

So the issue of people living in a Western civilized country in the 21st century without electricity is not important for Queensland politicians to even reply to when it comes to the Daintree, but when floods and cyclones hit the rest of Queensland Treasurer at the time Wayne Swan said anyone who lost power for 48 hours as a result of Cyclone Yasi will be eligible for federal emergency assistance payments of $1000.- per adult and $400.- per child!
For years the Daintree residents have suffered the inconvenience of living without mains power without anyone being able to calculate exactly how inconvenient this was, but after the big floods the federal government finally managed to calculate a dollar value for this.

So this is what I wrote to Julia Gillard, the Prime Minister of Australia at that time;

Dear PM, I have been reading with much frustration all the news that people whose only hardship was to not have mains electricity for 48 hours during recent disasters are now eligible for payments of $1000.- per person.

Are you aware that there are many people that live in the Daintree who have been suffering for years without mains power and have to run expensive polluting generators daily for their needs?
My generator has just broken down again so I am up for repair costs and have to cancel bookings for my B&B and I'll have no income for a week, and who is going to compensate me?

I see that Wayne Swan has now calculated a dollar value for the inconvenience of suffering lack of mains power.

So, if a period of 48 hours without mains electricity is that traumatic that it is worth a $1000.- in compensation, then I would also like to submit my claim.
I have lived in Cape Tribulation without electricity for 17.5 years x 365 days = 6387 days.
Divide this by 2 and you end up with 3194 periods of 48 hours that I have suffered without electricity andthat are worth a $1000.- according to Wayne Swan, and he is the Treasurer of Australia, the top financial expert in the country, so this could not possible be wrong!
This would make me eligible for 3194 x $1000.- = $3,194,000.- which you can round off to $3.2 million dollars if you include the few extra days from the leap years in that time.

The above was posted on 14 February, on 8 May (nearly three months later) I received a politically correct, though totally unhelpful and meaningless letter of reply that I should contact the Queensland Government.

Julia Gillard and Bob Brown have created the carbon tax, which they think will cut pollution and save the world.
Sure enough, if the whole world would pollute less then this would be a great thing, but if only Australia is going to pay taxes on pollution while the rest of the world carries on as usual then our country will be less competitive in a world market while the effect on the planet's health will not be worth measuring.

So I emailed a question to Julia Gillard;

Prime Minister, judging by the fact that you will introduce a carbon tax you seem to be very concerned about pollution.
So then please explain why residents of the Daintree are being denied grid power by legislation. Why are these laws not repealed and money spent on electricity infrastructure like in the rest of Australia?
Every business and household now runs their own polluting generator as solar power in a rainforest is impossible, an electricity grid would reduce pollution massively.

When, or more likely if, a reply is received I will post it on this page. So far it has been well over half a year and no reply received....

A glimmer of hope

At least we have Warren Entsch on our side, he has done more work on the issue than all other politicians together, but he is our federal member and electricity is a state responsibility.

warren entsch
International help?

In 2011 the United Arab Emirates donated 60 million dollar to Queensland to build cyclone shelters, so when I realized that the UAE cares more about us than Anna Bligh does I sent an email to their cabinet minister Her Excellency Reem Al-Hashimy with the request to finance a state of the art renewable energy grid in the Daintree, but no reply was received, I guess they prefer the current situation where they can sell the Daintree 3 million litres of fuel per year for the guzzling generators.

International organisations

Not only Warren Entsch and his party but also many of the world's biggest international organisations have identified that not having access to an electricity grid is not only a bit inconvenient, but it creates social problems, economic problems and poverty.
While many of the statements below were written with poor third-world countries in mind, it is striking how they also apply to the Daintree region.

united nations
Meeting human rights obligations

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Declaration on the Use of Scientific and Technological Progress in the Interests of Peace and for the Benefit of Mankind - Proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 3384 (XXX) of 10 November 1975

7. All States shall take the necessary measures, including legislative measures, to ensure that the utilization of scientific and technological achievements promotes the fullest realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination whatsoever on grounds of race, sex, language or religious beliefs.

(Queensland has legislation AGAINST this utilization of scientific and technological progress, the technology to bring more efficient and cleaner power to residents via a grid is there but they have laws banning it!)

UN World Energy Outlook 2010 Summit discussing the issue of energy poverty

This report from the International Energy Agency discussed at the UN Summit shows how the Australian government forces the residents in the Daintree to live in situations that are comparable to Sub-Saharan Africa.

News.com.au published this in September 2010;

Swaths of the world inhabit a modern dark age, with lack of electricity and modern cooking facilities condemning billions to deep poverty.
More than 20 per cent of the global population, or 1.4 billion people, lack access to electricity, while about 40 per cent rely on the likes of wood stoves for cooking.
"This is shameful and unacceptable," the IEA said in a report released at UN headquarters in New York during a summit on world poverty.
The ability to flick on a light switch, something taken for granted in the developed world, is utterly out of reach in many countries - and so are all the economic advantages that come with modern power.
The issue goes far beyond inconvenience, feeding into deep-rooted social and economic problems that this week's UN summit on the Millennium Development Goals is trying to target.
"Lack of access to modern energy services is a serious hindrance to economic and social development and must be overcome if the UN Millennium Development Goals are to be achieved," the IEA said.
Current projections by the IEA show that 1.2 billion people will still live without electricity in 2030, nearly all of them living in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, India and other developing Asian countries.(and the Daintree...)
China is one of the bright spots, with universal electricity availability expected in 2015, followed by Latin America in 2030.
For example, the cost of light from fluorescent tubes in Bangladesh is actually less than 2 per cent the cost of the same amount of light from old-fashioned kerosene lamps.
"Access to electricity accordingly can reduce total household energy costs dramatically, if upfront costs related to the connection are made affordable."
The IEA report also said in their report on energy poverty that in sub-Saharan Africa only 31 percent of people have electricity.
( That's still better than the Daintree where only 13 houses are connected to the mains power grid, so probably less than 5% of Daintree residents are connected to electricity, compared to 31% of sub-Saharan Africa... )

2012 has been declared the international year for energy access by the United-Nations, on their website they say:

Energy is critical to economic development and poverty reduction. The provision of reliable, affordable and sustainable energy services, especially for the poorest, contributes decisively to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Without energy, economies cannot grow and poverty cannot be reduced.

Insufficient electricity supply affects many developing countries. Productivity, competitiveness, employment, and economic and social development are therefore limited.


international energy agency

Commitments of Australia as member of The International Energy Agency

Australia is one of the 28 members of the International Energy Agency and this imposes certain legal obligations on the Australian government to adhere to this agency's constitution, policies and objectives.
If you read the About the IEA page on their website you will read numerous obligations that the Australian government is currently ignoring, some exerpts from the IEA's document;

- Promote greenhouse gas emission abatement, through enhanced energy efficiency and the use of cleaner fossil fuels. Develop more energy efficient energy options. (=Install a grid and get rid of the hundreds of individual polluting generators)
- Ensure the stable supply of energy to IEA member countries and promote free markets to foster economic growth and eliminate energy poverty. (=Install a grid and get rid of all the individual generators that impose an economic burden on the population that keeps them poor and stops businesses from being viable)
- All economies require access to energy to develop and grow. (=See above)
- The 28 members of the International Energy Agency seek to create conditions in which the energy sectors of their economies can make the fullest possible contributions to the sustainable economic development and to the well-being of their people and of the environment. (Yet another obligation that is being flouted, government currently does not seem to care about well-being of its people at all)
- Decision makers should seek to minimise the adverse environmental impacts of energy activities. (decision makers should not be keeping legislation in place that prohibit grid power and force people to run polluting generators).
- Improved energy efficiency can promote both environmental protection and energy-security in a cost-effective manner. (Government currently prefers to maintain status quo of individual polluting generators instead of the improved efficiency of grid power)

The definition of Energy Poverty ( Copied from Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia)

Energy Poverty is a term for a lack of access to electricity, heat, or other forms of power.
Often referring to the situation of peoples in the developing world, the term also implies any quality of life issues relating to this lack of access.
Energy poverty exists when the required infrastructure is not in place for energy delivery, most often electricity.
According to the Energy Poverty Action initiative of the World Economic Forum, "Access to energy is fundamental to improving quality of life and is a key imperative for economic development.
In the developing world, energy poverty is still rife. Nearly 1.6 billion people still have no access to electricity, according to the International Energy Agency.

Domestic energy poverty refers to a situation where a household does not have access or cannot afford to have the basic energy or energy services to achieve day to day living requirements. These requirements can change from country to country and region to region. The most common needs are lighting, cooking energy, domestic heating or cooling.
There is little information available on specific measure on the basic energy requirement, but many countries have identified that provision of 1 unit of electricity per day per household as a basic energy requirement, thus it is seen that in many developing countries the 30 units of electricity per month category is provided at a very concessionary rate.
Until recently energy poverty definitions took only the minimum energy quantity required in to consideration when defining energy poverty, but a different school of thought is that not only energy quantity but the quality and cleanliness of the energy used should be taken in to consideration when defining energy poverty.
One such definition read as: "A person is in ‘energy poverty’ if they do not have access to at least 120kWh electricity per capita per year for lighting, access to most basic services (drinking water, communication, improved health services, education improved services and others) plus some added value to local production.

energy development and poverty reduction

Another internationally widely used definition of Energy Poverty is detailed on Energyfordevelopment.com;
When energy expenditure is above 10% of income, then conceivably it will begin to have an impact on general household welfare.
The idea is that when households are forced to spend as much as 10% of cash income on energy they are being deprived of other basic goods and services necessary to sustain life.
Many Daintree residents (or businesses) would find that when they add up their purchase, repairs, maintenance and replacement of generators, batteries and other equipment, fuel costs, and other expenses such as business downtime when equipment breaks down, would be well above this 10%.

milennium project

Some excerpts copied from UNmillenniumproject.org that was commissioned by the UN Secretary General, and has set certain goals that member countries (including Australia) should reach by 2015:

- Countries should adopt measures to ensure reliable electricity supply to households, businesses, public institutions, commercial establishments, and industry, enable payment and cost-recovery mechanisms that will ensure the financial health of energy service delivery entities so that they can provide reliable service and expand services.
(Australia is currently not doing anything to ensure reliable electricity supply to Daintree households)

- In many of the poorest countries, a large fraction of the population is unable to access modern energy services at all, and those who do have access often pay dearly for energy services of much lower quality—meaning that the services are erratic and unreliable.
(In the Daintree people have to get by with generators, which is very expensive and unreliable as they break down from time to time).

- The poorest households spend a large portion of their total income and human resources on energy because some forms of energy are absolutely essential.
Insufficient and unreliable power limits the ability of enterprises to expand their activities, to be competitive, or to create new activities or jobs.
(In the Daintree residents and businesses spend a far larger part of their income on their little it of electricity than in the rest of Australia where people enjoy grid power)

- The 1.6 billion people worldwide who are without access to electricity may take heart in the examples set by Tunisia, where the electrification program expanded service from 6 percent of the population in 1976 to 88 percent in 2001; Morocco, where electrification rates reached 72 percent in 2004 (Morocco, Office National de l’Electricité 2005); and China, where electrification rates reached 97 percent in 2004, thanks to sustained political commitment, public funding that combined domestic resources and borrowings from the Development Banks and other sources, and effective cost-recovery tariffs and mechanisms from users.

- At the village, town, city and national scale, lack of reliable and affordable electricity supply can also become an impediment to income-generating industrial, commercial, and service activities.
(In the Daintree this certainly is an impediment, even the smallest restaurant has a diesel bill of $1500 a week for electricity supply and a small B&B can't even have a small bar fridge in guestrooms or an electric toaster in the kitchen).


When the battle raged in Libya, Gadaffi was criticized for cutting off electricity and water to cities to make life difficult for the rebels.
At least he had installed electricity and water supply to his people and had it running for many years before this war.
Gadaffi gave Muserat and Benghazi essentail services years ago that the Australian government still hasn't given the Daintree!

Why don't you move?

The anti-grid-electricity people, of whom interestingly enough 99% live outside the area comfortably on mains power themselves, read the above and shortsightedly say; if you don't like it why don't you move?
The answer is HOW? Thanks to the combination of grid power denial and Mike Berwick's controversial townplan that took development rights off private properties without much adequate compensation the Daintree has become the Bermuda Triangle of property investment with falling and stagnating property values while the rest of the country went through a boom, making it impossible to sell up and buy a comparable property elsewhere.
Banks are very reluctant to lend money for properties without essential services connected, making it difficult for anyone wanting to buy in here to get their finances organized.
So residents are trapped, they go broke paying for their limited electricity, but can't sell their place and move elsewhere, and the tourists that drive up ask why everything is for sale with the multitudes of real estate agents for sale signs polluting the place.
A two pronged attack from the Australian government on their own citizens; keep electricity costs high while keeping their property values low by denial of basic services.

Renewable Energy Re-defined

Renewable Energy is a popular buzzword that is all around us these days as attempts are made to make this world less polluting. But despite its romantic sounding name, what is the harsh reality of "Renewable Energy" to Daintree residents?

Every seven to ten years you have to RENEW your batterybank, depending on its size you are up for $4500 to even $20 000 and you can add a pile of lead and acid to the battery pile in the photo above.
From time to time you have to RENEW your generator, costs anywhere from $1000 to $50 000, and on a regular basis you have to RENEW the engine oil in your generator and discard of it.
You also need to frequently RENEW your petrol or diesel supply as you burn it in your generator.
Inverters need their capacitor bank RENEWED from time to time, cost $1000
All the equipment in your "Renewable Energy" system has to be RENEWED from time to time, inverters and battery chargers can blow up, and solar panels can be damaged in lightning strikes, the RENEWAL of any of these components once again can cost anywhere from $1000 to over $20 000

renewable energy from renewed generators

Generators worn out, time to RENEW the generators and dump the old ones.

reneweing the petrol supply

Time to RENEW the fuel supply after a rainy period surviving on generator power.

dead batteries polluting the daintree

Lots of batteries that had to be RENEWED



daintree tree frog

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