R7167 The Best of the Years, 1974: Snowy Mountains Scheme opened



This clip shows the 1972 opening of the Tumut 3 power station, part of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. It shows then governor-general Sir Paul Hasluck at the ceremony and includes footage of the infrastructure of the power station and the surrounding environment. The narrator promotes the benefits of the Scheme and asserts that it is 'one of the world's great engineering achievements'.

Acknowledgements: Reproduced courtesy of australianscreen online.

Educational value
The clip features the opening of one of the final stages of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme in October 1972. Construction began on various elements of the Scheme (managed by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority) in 1949 and the Scheme was completed on time and on budget in August 1974. It is regarded as one of the most complex integrated water and hydro-electric power schemes in the world. It cost a total of $800 million, which was equivalent to approximately $6 billion in 2006.
Described as 'one of the world's greatest engineering achievements', the Scheme is the largest water storage and diversion system in Australia and has been named as one of the major engineering feats of the modern world. It diverts water from the Snowy River through 145 km of tunnels and 80 km of aqueduct pipes in the Snowy Mountains into a series of 16 major dams. Seven power stations use the stored water to generate hydro-electric power for the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria, and to supply water for the Murrumbidgee and Murray irrigation areas.
Tumut 3, the Scheme's largest power station, features in the clip. Although highly efficient in its day, Tumut 3 needed an upgrade in 2003 and 2004 to capture approximately 3.1 GWh per year of otherwise wasted energy. Six 120 kW micro-hydro generators were installed, resulting in the station gaining 'green power' accreditation and improving the efficiency of its generation techniques.
The Scheme spans an area of 5,124 sq km, mostly located in Kosciuszko National Park in NSW. In spite of its obvious advantages, the Scheme has had serious environmental consequences for local ecosystems, particularly in the lower regions of the Snowy River. In 1998 the Snowy Water Inquiry was established to investigate the ecological effects of reduced water flow in the Snowy River. In 2000, based on the Inquiry's research and recommendations, the Victorian and NSW governments agreed to provide support to periodically increase flows to assist with the rehabilitation of the Snowy River. The Murray River is facing the problem of increased salinity, which is considered to be a result of irrigation systems made possible by the Scheme.
More than 100,000 people from more than 30 countries were employed in the Scheme's construction, providing work for a large number of immigrants who came to Australia after the Second World War. The Scheme played an important role in Australia's post-War economic and social development.
The Scheme is an example of a large public infrastructure project that delivers electricity and water. It is jointly owned and operated by the Australian Government and the state governments of Victoria and New South Wales. In 1959, the Snowy Mountains Council was established to control the release of water and electricity production. A proposal to privatise Snowy Hydro was abandoned in 2006 when public opposition forced a rethink of the plan. The privatisation of public utilities such as water and electricity continues to be debated.
The clip includes footage of the then governor-general of Australia, Sir Paul Hasluck (1905-93). Hasluck was governor-general between 1969 and 1974. Prior to that, he served as a Liberal Party minister from 1949 to 1969. During his term as minister for external affairs he encouraged local participation in the administration of Papua New Guinea. He is also a widely published author.
Two Union Jack flags are shown hanging on either side of two Australian flags, indicating that in 1972 the historical colonial connection between Australia and Britain was still an expected element of civic culture. Until the Australian 'Flags Act' of 1953, the Union Jack was flown in a superior position to any other flag in Australia and it was not until 1954 that the Australian flag was legally recognised as the national flag. There continues to be debate over whether or not the Union Jack should be removed from the Australian flag to reflect Australia's status as an independent and multicultural nation.
Energy use
Power stations
© Curriculum Corporation and australianscreen online, 2009, except where indicated under Acknowledgements