Letters to the editor

Challenges facing the EP

Eyre Peninsula is a unique and beautiful piece of the greatest country on Earth.

The towns are in the main well planned, tidy and appealing, while their residents are generally law-abiding, easy going, and justifiably proud and defensive of their communities and heritage.

Underlying this are the undeniable facts that as a whole our population is shrinking and ageing, our unemployment rate is rising and our school-leavers are seeking careers elsewhere.

Our water, power, road networks, public transport and communications systems are inadequate, ageing and expensive to use and maintain.

The very things that make EP so enjoyable are the things causing our private, federal and state government services to centralise to Adelaide and beyond.

In the eyes of the bureaucrats and bean counters we are ‘too far away, too few in numbers and too expensive to service’.

Small towns can’t attract and retain medical expertise to run clinics and hospitals (if they still have one), private businesses including general stores clubs and hotels are closing while families are ‘selling the farm’, forcing state government to justify the continuance of its services.

At the same time the northern and eastern portions are ‘doing it tough’ with a prolonged lack of rain.

The Eyre Peninsula has five projects being investigated that could by themselves, do wonders for individual townships and localities but, taken as a whole, could rejuvenate the entire region.

They are: the mine at Warramboo and associated multi-use port; a nuclear waste storage facility at Kimba; a desalination plant near Port Lincoln; and offshore oil exploration in the Bight.

There are also a number of smaller but just as vital developments.

Every one of the projects outlined will require people to operate them from the concept, design, start-up and pre-production stages through to daily operation and final dismantling/remediation if that is required.

That could amount to over 200,000 full time jobs over the life of the collective projects, most of which have a known serviceable life span of 60 to 100 years.

That is over two generations of directly relatable, full time, productive work.

It could provide school leavers with a career path that allows them to stay here.

They will need housing, food, schools, hospitals, recreation facilities, communications, road networks, public transport, etc, which creates further employment, leading to even greater population retention.

Decaying and aged infrastructure, population decline, unemployment, diminished services, lack of private investment are eliminated as the the region becomes “too big to ignore”.

Yes, there are risks associated with each one of the major and minor projects outlined, but the greatest risk is in not fully exploring and accepting the opportunities they present.

The scenery will still be breathtaking, the sun will still shine, the tide will still ebb and flow, bushfire, drought and flood will still challenge us as it has for eons.

The challenge we face is; do we do nothing and continue our decline in paradise or do we take some minimised, calculated risks and thrive?

Failing to explore our options may deprive our grandchildren of opoprtunities.

You may, as is your right, disagree with me, and or oppose one or all of the projects, but challenge yourself to devise any viable plan that could reverse the current situation and provide benefits to the EP before publicly attacking my musings.

It is far too common and popular today to say “Not in my backyard” rather than say “Not that, but what about this?”



Oil won’t bring boom

I’m not opposed to oil exploration in general, but to my mind the notion of drilling a hole in the seabed in two kilometres of wild Southern Ocean water, using a big floating rig, positioned by GPS guided thrusters seems to be risky in the extreme.

The failure of a gear box, coupling, any part of the drivetrain, or any other mechanical or electrical system would likely result in the loss of a thruster.

The loss of the signal from the GPS or failure of a related electronic system would result in the loss of all six thrusters and with some folks talking up the concept of a future war in space, it’s a distant but finite possibility.

Many years ago I worked on an oil rig in the Cooper Basin, after a background in mechanical engineering in the Whyalla Steelworks.

I did a rough conservative calculation of the wind load on a big oil rig in a 60-knot wind and came up with a number of around 350 tonnes.

Apparently the six azimuth thrusters will make about 240 tonnes in total, running flat out.

The Deep Water Horizon blowout proved to be enormously difficult to cap, and it was in just 60 metres of water, not 2000 metres of notoriously rough and unpredictable Southern Ocean water.

And as for the mini economic boom that will supposedly result from the drilling, I was around for the three decades or so during the previous 23 or so drillings, and even though it was talked up at the time, I don’t seem to remember any noticeable great economic boom during any drilling program at the time, and I’m not sure why this one would be different.