Pickard: City of Joondalup won’t pick up tab for underground power.

STATE Government should fund underground power projects, not local governments or residents, Joondalup Mayor Troy Pickard says.

Energy Minister Mike Nahan this month announced changes to the State Underground Power Program (SUPP), encouraging local governments to pay more than the previous 50 per cent contribution for powerline upgrades.

“Local governments will now be able to offer to contribute a larger share of project costs to make proposals more competitive in the selection process,” Dr Nahan said.

“This new arrangement will also allow for more projects to access available State Government funding for the program.”

Mr Pickard said the proposed changes would have little impact locally because the City and its residents had shown several times they did not want to pay for underground power to replace overhead powerlines and poles.

“They are unwilling to contribute the minimum of 50 per cent towards the costs associated with undergrounding power, let alone a higher percentage contribution,” he said.

“There is a growing trend in which communities are rejecting this co-contribution model.

“It is now time for the State Government to inject more money into the system so underground power is a viable option for all members of the community, no matter what suburb they live in.”

Mr Pickard said there were about 19,000 properties, or 34 per cent of households, still connected to overhead power in the City.

According to the City, several proposals put forward between 2001 and 2010 did not proceed for a variety of reasons, including west Greenwood in 2006. That project reached the detailed proposal stage and a survey went to all affected ratepayers outlining the $5850 contribution they were expected to pay.

Only 36 per cent of those who responded supported the proposal, so it did not proceed.

In 2011, Western Power paid 75 per cent of the cost of installing underground power along Ocean Drive, Quinns Rocks.

The City of Wanneroo pre-funded the balance for that project and imposed a service charge of between $2600 and $3300 on 77 property owners in the street.

Previously, SUPP involved the State Government and Western Power each funding 25 per cent of costs, with local governments providing the remaining 50 per cent, using money collected from ratepayers in the affected area.

Dr Nahan said the new arrangements would consider community support and a survey of property owners. “For a proposal to be considered for the program, the community survey will need to show that at least 50 per cent of survey respondents support the project,” he said.

The City of Wanneroo did not respond to a request for comment before the Weekender went to print.