Port Augusta Mayor Calls For Northern Power Station Royal Commission

Northern Power Station demolition and rehabilitation

Image : Flinders Power

Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson has had a gutful (or lungful) – he’s called for a Royal Commission into the impacts of the operation and closure of Northern Power Station.

The straw that appears to have broken the camel’s back was an incident last week when Port Augusta was again assaulted by coal and topsoil dust originating from the Northern Power Station site, which is undergoing demolition and rehabilitation.

In an opinion piece published on The Advertiser (paywall), Mayor Johnson said Port Augusta and its people are sick of being guinea pigs and subject to South Australia’s “biggest science experiment”1.

Mayor Johnson was particularly critical of Environment Minister Ian Hunter and says the Government is showing a lack of compassion. He has also questioned how different the reaction to Port Augusta’s plight would be if it was a metropolitan area or marginal seat. Mayor Johnson has called on Minister Hunter to step up, ensure the issues are fixed and announce a Royal Commission.

“Have the conviction for that Mr Hunter,” said the Mayor. ” We want a solution, and we want it now. Prove your competency.”

Concerning the December 27 dust event, Flinders Power stated it had been monitoring conditions throughout the day and had water carts operating for the anticipated change in conditions.

“However when the change hit it came with such ferocity that it has lifted soil on the some areas of the ash storage area and also lifted some residual coal from the former coal stockpile,” said Flinders Power. “The dust was not ash. We continue to have personnel onsite and watercarts in operation and will continue to do so over the summer period.”

A Port Augusta resident described the event as “dreadful” with “black everywhere”.

While the dust may not have contained fly ash (the waste product from burning coal), South Australia’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) notes on its Port Augusta Power Stations site page:

“Dust particles themselves may cause health effects irrespective of their elemental make-up and as such the EPA remains committed to working closely with Flinders Power to minimise dust events.”

While seething about the situation concerning Northern Power Station, Mayor Johnson is very upbeat on other energy-related issues; particularly the region’s role in wind, solar power and energy storage projects. These include a 150MW solar thermal power plant, Bungala Solar Project, Port Augusta Renewable Energy Park and Lincoln Gap Wind Farm.


  1. Those affected by British nuclear tests at Maralinga between 1956 and 1963 may disagree with this assessment
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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