The Australian Labor Party (ALP) has proposed putting electricity cables throughout the City of Sydney underground as part of its local government election platform.
ALP candidate Linda Scott pledged to conduct a feasibility study into ‘undergrounding’ the powerlines in tandem with the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Ms Scott said the NBN rollout was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to bury the unsightly cables, which interfere with the growth of street trees and pose a safety risk when downed by wild winds or trafﬁc accidents.
“If elected, Sydney Labor will conduct a feasibility study to determine how to harness the NBN rollout to put telegraph cables underground,” said Ms Scott.
“Underground electricity cables are safer, more reliable and cheaper to maintain. They are also more energy efﬁcient, which is better for the environment and better for consumers.”
She added that electricity cables were harmful to native wildlife such as bats and possums, and said they were being placed underground in cities such as Perth, where the majority of homes are now served by underground power.
Ms Scott’s proposal received a mixed reaction from political rivals, although most broadly support the idea.
Living Sydney mayoral candidate Angela Vithoulkas said there were more important issues to address.
“I support improving the urban landscape of Sydney, but realistically the cost of placing cables underground is enormous and, while there are so many people in our community who are homeless or living in overcrowded, unsafe conditions, I believe the money can be much better spent,” said Ms Vithoulkas.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP said the proposal was a rehash of old plans and existing initiatives.
“I’ve been campaigning to have powerlines put underground for well over a decade,” she said.
“In response to my call in Parliament, [former] Labor Premier Bob Carr committed to an achievable plan to methodically bury overhead cables.
“Premier Carr reneged on that commitment.”
Ms Moore said the City was already putting cables underground each time it conducted a major street upgrade, such as the recent Glebe Point Road works. This was at the City’s expense and despite the cables being owned by electricity supplier Ausgrid, she said.
Greens mayoral candidate, Councillor Irene Doutney said Labor’s plan was old news.
“I support placing powerlines underground, but the City is already doing that over time when we do street upgrades,” she said.
“We’re also putting powerlines underground in the GreenSquare area when we install the City’s trigeneration infrastructure.”
Liberal Lord Mayoral candidate Edward Mandla did not return calls by press time.