SENTINEL-TIMES COMMENT

AS LATE as Monday afternoon this week, there were still 15,000 Ausnet customers without power, 5000 of them in Gippsland.

Notwithstanding the fact that there were 230,000 customers without power at the height of last Friday’s storm, the fact that some South Gippsland dairy farmers were only just getting back to milking their cows, in their own sheds on Monday morning, is a distressing situation.

Is it reasonable that they all have big generators sitting there for just such an eventuality? Maybe so, after a similar incident during a more severe storm back in June. Perhaps, as predicted, there are going to be more of these storm events.

But it all adds to the cost of producing food.

Whatever precautions the dairy farmers are ultimately forced to make, to protect their businesses and ensure the welfare of their stock, the response by Ausnet Services has not been up to scratch.

It raises questions about the durability of the power infrastructure.

But more than that, it raises questions about the adequacy of the surge response in place to respond to these events.

Ausnet says they do have private contractors they can call on in an emergency but also that some of these additional resources were not available on a holiday weekend – not good enough.

Ausnet needs to have enough private contractors trained to do this work when the need arises and they need to make contracts with these specialists, properly compensated of course, to turn up regardless of whether it’s Christmas or a Melbourne Cup long weekend.

There’s just too much at stake, not only for business and customers at home, but also for vulnerable customers like those in aged care or with special health needs, and those in sensitive industries, like dairy farming where the welfare of cows in milk is also an issue.

Surely, it’s simply the cost of doing business in the lucrative power industry.