AN AUSTRALIAN newspaper report says that people of the Purari River region in PNG, which could be dammed to provide hydroelectricity to Queensland, know nothing about the proposal and have not been contacted by its proponents.
The report quotes Dr Laevai Neuendorf, who says he is “chief” of the Hamora Ipi clan but who is a resident of Queensland, saying the local people do not want the project to be built on “sacred ancestral lands”.
He said the scheme would marginalise his people, whose land covers about 25,000 hectares, and will make them even poorer.
Last week Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced plans for Origin Energy to partner a PNG company to produce 1800 megawatts of power from the Purari River.
Queensland would be the major customer, with electricity brought by undersea cable to Weipa, Mt Isa and Townsville.
Dr Neuendorf, originally from PNG, said he feared for the economic impacts in the Purari area and said the local people had no idea of what was going on.
“They were quite shocked about it,” he said. “It really annoys me. They wouldn’t be allowed to dam a river like that in Queensland.”
Origin project manager Charles Nieuwoudt said the dam would impact on few people and bring many positives. Studies had started and locals at the nearby village of Wabo supported it, he claimed.
“He can’t have a balanced opinion until he hears about the project. It’s a bit disappointing,” he said.
But Dr Neuendorf said about 50,000 people lived in the coastal and delta regions of the Purari, and only 800-900 at the project site. “If the hydro plan goes ahead without due diligence the Purari will die, “ he said.
Spotter: Murray Bladwell
Source: ‘Cold water on hydro plan’ by Brian Williams, Brisbane Courier-Mail, 23 September 2010