Northampton residents and business owners crying out for help after town suffers through another power outage

Michael RobertsGeraldton Guardian
Northampton residents are furious they have to continually fill up their generators with fuel to keep the lights on.
Camera IconNorthampton residents are furious they have to continually fill up their generators with fuel to keep the lights on. Credit: Michael Roberts/Geraldton Guardian/Geraldton Guardian

Northampton residents say they are at breaking point after the Mid West town was this week subjected to its third major power outage in just 10 days.

Locals were left scrambling to hook up generators again on Wednesday when the lights went out about 4.40am.

Close to 1300 homes and businesses in Northampton and surrounds were impacted by the outage, which lasted about 11 hours.

Residents sizzled without air-conditioning in searing temperatures, with the temperature reaching 40C at about 11.30am.

It follows a blackout on Boxing Day which lasted 40 hours and another power failure on December 30 which went for more than 10 hours.

Wren’s Place is just one business counting the cost of continued blackouts after the bakery had to throw out large quantities of hand-made food that could not survive the heat.

Manager Alex Nguyen said it had been an incredibly stressful couple of weeks trying to keep their generator running so the small business could keep its doors open.

She said the bakery had not applied for power outage payments because the paperwork took too long to complete.

“We’re too busy to get it done,” she said.

“As a bakery, if we run out of power, we are in trouble.

“Everyone is very tired and hot.”

Northampton residents Britt Lock, Tara Smith and Clarry Chishlon.
Camera IconNorthampton residents Britt Lock, Tara Smith and Clarry Chishlon. Credit: Michael Roberts/Geraldton Guardian/Geraldton Guardian

Clarry Chishlon, who lives 3km out of town, said the situation was beyond a joke.

“We’ve had to invest in another generator because everything at our place relies on power,” he said.

“Even just to flush the toilet we need a pressure pump because we aren’t on mains water.”

Issuing a formal apology, Western Power said it was working to fix the reliability of the Northampton line “as soon as possible”, forming a dedicated team to assess the cause of the outages.

“We’re already trialling several initiatives to improve supply, including adjusting recloser settings to give the system more flexibility,” a spokesperson said.

“A targeted visual inspection of the Northampton line is also occurring in addition to fault-finding investigations, to identify any maintenance actions which may be required to prevent further outages.”

Moore MLA Shane Love said a review of the network was long overdue.

“These blackouts have been re-occurring in the region for weeks, the fault should have been discovered and fixed well before now,” he said.

“Access to electricity during the peak of the summer months is a basic human right in Western Australia — this must be resolved as quickly as possible.”

Mr Love said it was time to look at installing a micro grid system in Northampton, similar to the setup in Kalbarri.

A spokesperson for Energy Minister Bill Johnston said a micro grid in Northampton was not being considered, but “could be a longer-term option”.

“As part of the rapidly changing energy sector, Western Power is transforming the network to a more modular grid using emerging technologies and innovative solutions to integrate greater renewables and deliver improved power reliability for regional WA,” the spokesperson said.

Repair times are also a source of serious frustration in Northampton, with Western Power maintaining it cannot operate when the fire danger risk is too high.

But Mr Love said there needed to be a re-think on the policy so repair work could be carried out more efficiently.

“Western Power appear to have adopted a narrow and risk averse approach to the matter of power restoration during total fire bans to the point where community safety is threatened as residents needlessly go without power,” he said.

“Denying elderly and infirm persons power during periods of extreme heat when it could be restored, poses an unnecessary risk to their lives.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails