Marine Drive has been subject to consideration by Council for undergrounding ever since upgrading of Marine Drive Tea Gardens has been mooted.
Discussions have been ongoing with the appropriate energy authority.
Myall Way has also been under consideration by council for undergrounding.
The undergrounding of electricity is not a responsibility of council, but a matter for the electricity authority.
Councils are able to require developers to put underground electricity in for new developments as it is cost effective.
Undergrounding of electricity is not as simple as it appears for existing residential areas.
Excavating trenches and laying the cable is relatively straight forward, whether it be within footpaths or roads and the subsequent resurfacing of roads does not add greatly to the cost factor.
However the complication arises with installing the junctions, transformers and connection points for each individual premise.
This cost will need to be borne by each individual premise and has been estimated to be in the order of some $5000 and would be in addition to the cost for laying of conduits and cable.
Council does not have the finances nor the authority to undertake such work.
That is clearly the responsibility of the electricity authority.
The email response from Mike Hely (electrical authority) is somewhat disingenuous as he admits council has been in consultation with them for some four years and that they have not planned for the undergrounding but then blames council for not advising them earlier.
He then states that there are drivers for undergrounding electricity.
One of those drivers is that unless it is on their timetable of works others are required to pay for it, not the electrical authority.
Mr Hely also states that there is only a possibility that undergrounding could occur along Marine Drive , not that it can.
It is easy to bag council when one does not want to do the work or pay for it.
Council has not dropped the ball, council has been agitating for the residents for some time to have the electricity underground but the electricity authority has not been interested, as indicated in Mr Hely’s email.
Undergrounding electricity along marine drive is problematic.
I am aware of residents a couple of years ago offering to pay the full cost of undergrounding the electricity and I am intimately aware of the reasons it was not feasible at the time.
The wires in Marine Drive have been high voltage to go under the river by submarine cable to service Hawks Nest.
It is not desirable for various reasons to place high voltage underground.
It is possible to place the wires underground but the High voltage would need to be removed and other works undertaken by the electrical authority before that could happen.
At the end of the day it is possible to underground electricity in Marine Drive if the electrical authority has a plan, a mind to do so and the finance to get it done.
There is no real benefit to laying conduits at the same time as the road upgrade as it is just as easy to do it at any time.
The electricity authority has known about the council and residents desire for undergrounding for at least four years and yet still no plans or co-operation.
Remember this is not a council responsibility but council is advocating on behalf of the residents.
If the electricity authority bureaucrats were fair dinkum they would have concept and feasibility plans in place.
I am happy to meet on site with Mr Hely, Trevor Jennings and Gordon Grainger, for Mr Hely to show us how it can be done and whether they have budgeted to do the work.
Cr Len Roberts
Port Stephens Council