By Bill Mason
BRISBANE — Queensland conservationists are angered by a government-appointed task force's recommendation to approve the controversial Tully-Millstream hydroelectric project. They are considering a Franklin-style mass civil disobedience campaign if the project is allowed to proceed.
The Tasmanian Wilderness Society's fight against the Franklin scheme was a turning point in the rise of the Australian green movement, and helped bring down the Fraser government in 1983.
Under the Queensland Electricity Commission's $520 million plan, parts of north Queensland's World Heritage tropical rainforest would be flooded. Two dams, feeding a 600 megawatt power station, would inundate 4300 hectares, including 135 hectares World Heritage forest.
The report is a result of a year-long investigation headed by premier's department engineer Ian Clague. It claims the project would be at least $270 million cheaper than a coal-powered plant.
Tabled in cabinet on April 7, the report will be forwarded to the federal government and the Wet Tropics Management Authority for approval.
Queensland Conservation Council coordinator Rose Crisp said the task force had been allowed to liaise only with the QEC and other government agencies. It had not been able to consult groups making alternative proposals.
Much of Queensland's growth in demand for power "has been created by the Queensland electricity industry pushing wasteful and unnecessary uses of electricity", argues Australian Conservation Foundation spokesperson Dr Mark Diesendorf in a recent letter to the Brisbane Courier-Mail.
"QEC has prematurely retired power stations, which were still in quite good operating condition, while building new power stations", he adds.
As well, the industry has failed to consider savings through greater energy efficiency or use of solar power.
Wilderness Society project officer Doug Yuille says the scheme would block 700 kilometres of stream, affecting fish habitats. Stagnant water in the Tully River dam would increase the risk of dengue fever, Ross River fever and malaria.
Yuille said the project would create jobs only during the construction phase, and warned of the possible extinction of three rare wildlife species: the super glider, yellow-bellied glider and the marsupial antechinus.
Owners of white-water rafting businesses say the scheme would ruin an industry used by 60,000 tourists each year.
Premier Wayne Goss says a final decision on the scheme could take some 5D>