The closure of Essential Energy depots at Trundle and Peak Hill next month, with specialist workers redeployed up to an hour away in Parkes, Narromine and Condobolin, will result in reduced services and slower emergency response times, the Electrical Trades Union has warned.
Regional electricity distributor Essential Energy this week confirmed that as part of an ongoing series of cuts to employee numbers and regional depots, the two facilities in Trundle and Peak Hill will close their doors from September 4.
Last Tuesday, ETU representatives met with Member for Orange Philip Donato to discuss the local depot closures, with the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP expressing his shared concerns regarding the impacts of ongoing Essential Energy cuts.
“At the moment, when a car hits a telegraph pole, wind brings down power lines, or a house catches fire, local crews are available at Trundle and Peak Hill to respond, including after hours,” ETU assistant secretary Justin Page said.
“From next month, emergency services will be forced to wait for up to an hour for power to be isolated, as Essential Energy instead deploys crews from Parkes or Forbes.
“This delayed response not only impacts on the ability of emergency services personnel to do their job, it puts the safety of the public at risk and will result in services taking longer to restore.
“You can’t close two depots, relocate the workers and their specialist equipment to another town, then claim the local community won’t receive lower levels of service.
“It’s obvious that when the lights go out, or a catastrophe strikes, the people of Trundle and Peak Hill will be forced to wait longer before assistance arrives, it’s as simple as that.”
Mr Page also hit out at the National Party, saying they had turned a blind eye to cuts that saw more than 1,400 regional jobs axed from Essential Energy during the 2015-16 financial year alone.
“Before the last election, the National Party claimed they had ‘saved’ Essential Energy, but since then we have seen more than 50 local depots shut down and huge numbers of specialist workers lost,” he said. “It’s now absolutely clear that the Nationals lied to the public.
“Already this year, Essential Energy has closed depots at Moulamein, Grenfell, and Gundagai, as well as a major call centre in Queanbeyan, while management told the Fair Work Commission they plan to axe half of their remaining regional workforce in the next few years.
“This situation is absolutely unsustainable and will leave communities across regional NSW suffering with second-class electricity supplies.”