Collie residents react as Western Australia gives deadline for coal-fired power plants

People in the Western Australian town of Collie who have become used to living and working amongst coal mines and massive coal-fired power plants are at a historic crossroads.

After years of contemplation, the WA Government has announced it would shut the town’s two coal-fired power stations by the end of 2029, instead ploughing billions of dollars into renewable energy and storage.

The news has not come as a surprise to locals, who have watched as towns elsewhere in the country grapple with their main lifeblood drying up as Australia moved into a renewable energy future.

But third-generation coal miner Paul Moyses said the WA government’s decision would change the fabric of the town.

The coal mines have employed four generations of Paul Moyses’ family.(ABC News: Anthony Pancia)

“We have to know what sort of industry we are going to get here in Collie to be able to train people up to work in that industry.

“Up until now there has been nothing.”

The government said about 1,200 staff in and around Collie would be affected by its decision.

A wooden tower with the name "collie" we signed on the top.
Collie power plant will be closed by October 2027.(ABC News: Hugh Sando)

Collie Preston Labor MP Jodie Hanns said it was a “pretty tough” day for the local community which has thrived off coal mining since the 1920s.

But she said locals were not naive.

“We’ve known this is coming for a very long time,” she said.

“[Coal] is definitely not past its used by date, there is still a role to play for coal into the future.”

Three politicians stand behind a mic with gray clouds in the backdrop
Jodie Hanns announced the landmark decision at the Muja power plant.(ABC South West: Sam Bold)

Ms Hanns said residents were not keen to abandon their well-established lifestyles.

“They’re not looking for a FIFO lifestyle and so the future here is to create the opportunities for the workers and for the community to thrive well into the future,” she said.

Tourism to assist town’s rebirth

Collie Visitor Center manager Janine Page said the town had long been preparing for change.

A woman wearing a blue shirt and black jumper stands behind a desk
Janine Page says Collie is rebranding itself as a competitive tourism destination.(ABC South West: Sam Bold)

“I think for the families involved with it there’s always going to be a little bit of nervousness,” she said.

A mural painted on a massive brick dam wall
A mural spread across a dam wall near Collie has become a popular tourist attraction.(ABC South West: Sam Bold)

Ms Page said 27,000 people had stopped by the visitor center in the past year, the highest number on record.

“Tourism has been picking up throughout Collie over the past couple of years already and we have more [projects] planned as well,” she said.

Bike shop owner Erik Mellegers said he had benefited from the state government’s investment into local mountain bike trails.

A man in a blue shirt leans on a bike
Erik Mellegers is happy with the way the government has handled the transition so far.(ABC South West: Sam Bold)

He said the end of heavy industry coal-fired power generation within the decade could adjust people’s spending habits in town.

“Tourism isn’t going to replace industry – but there might be a whole range of things that will replace what coal leaves behind,” he said.

“But ultimately we need to see industry stay in Collie for Collie to be thriving in the short term.”

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