Residents of Talbingo were surprised with an uncommon site up in the mountains on Thursday: the Prime Minister of Australia arriving in a helicopter.
Malcolm Turnbull was in town to announce plans for a significant expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme, basing his press conference at the Tumut 3 Power Station just past the town.
He also took a tour of the village, including a stop at Talbingo Public School, and was shown around the massive power station – the pride of Snowy Hydro – by local staff.
However, his main purpose was to discuss the expansion – a $2 billion infrastructure project that is expected to bring 500 jobs to the region during its construction, and will increase Snowy Hydro’s electricity generation capacity by 50 per cent.
Mr Turnbull said the works were in keeping with the region’s character and history.
“Snowy Hydro: what an extraordinary achievement,” he said.
“This was the result of the vision and the courage of the generation that won the Second World War, that defended our freedoms and saved us, and they came home and they built this.
“There are big dreams in these mountains, and real courage. There’s a belief in the future, and a confidence in Australia, and what we are announcing today is our commitment to ensure that we build on that confidence; that we continue with that courage.”
The Snowy Hydro scheme is widely considered to be Australia’s greatest infrastructure project.
It was built over 25 years, between 1949 and 1974, and saw 100,000 workers lends their skills to its construction – many of them migrant workers who had fled the chaos of the Second World War.
It consists of sixteen major dams, seven power stations, two pumping stations, and 225 kilometres of tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts – a construction effort on an almost incomprehensible scale, that is about to become even bigger.
The new additions to the scheme will include 27 kilometres of tunnel between Talbingo and Tanangara Dams and a new underground power station that is expected to take Snowy Hydro’s capacity from 4500 megawatts a year to 6500.
Malcolm Turnbull said the government’s plans would maximise the extraordinary potential that the Snowy Scheme already has.
“The projects that we are talking about today, which will add at least 50 per cent to the capacity of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme, were designed and engineered decades ago by the men and women who built this,” he explained.
“The capacity is there, all that was missing was leadership and money, and my government has both. We share that vision.
“We are determined to ensure that Australians have affordable and reliable electricity.”