Tathra fire: electrical infrastructure likely cause; ETU calls for explanation on funding cuts

Friday, 23 March, 2018

Tathra fire: electrical infrastructure likely cause; ETU calls for explanation on funding cuts

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) fire investigators have completed their preliminary investigation into the cause of the bushfire near Tathra.

The investigation has found electrical infrastructure on Reedy Swamp Road as the likely cause of the fire. The NSW RFS has provided this information to NSW Police, which will provide a report to the Coroner, who will formally determine the cause of the fire.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) is calling on the Australian Energy Regulator and NSW Government to explain massive maintenance funding cuts which the union believes have the potential to impact on public safety across NSW.

“If, as anticipated, the initial report by the RFS finds Essential Energy assets played a part in starting the Tathra fire, the Australian Energy Regulator and the state government as the owners of Essential Energy have a moral obligation to explain how their massive maintenance funding cuts may be placing the public at serious risk,” said ETU NSW Assistant Secretary Justin Page.

“The NSW Government has been focused on cutting costs at Essential Energy including slashing maintenance and capital works expenditure while at the same time maximising profit.

“The NSW Government as owner of this ageing and complex network and the Australian Energy Regulator should be focused on safety and reliability ahead of cost cutting, which is not currently the case, leading to potential impacts on network reliability and public safety,” said Page.

“If electricity infrastructure is identified as a possible ignition source we believe the upcoming Keelty Inquiry into the disaster at Tathra must look at these significant and underlying structural issues given their potential to impact on public safety.”

In its own documents Essential Energy admits that it has shifted from an “Asset Maintenance” to an “Asset Management” methodology while over the past seven years Essential Energy has sacked 1700 employees, representing almost 40% of its workforce, said the ETU.

Essential Energy has also massively underspent on its operating expenditure budget to the tune of $129 million in 2017 and they have slashed capital expenditure by 38% since 2012 as a result of the Australian Energy Regulator limiting how much the company can spend, claimed the ETU. Conversely, profit, net profit and distributions to the state government have grown significantly in recent years, said the ETU.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/thanarak

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