13 April 2024

Just-in-time project makes Rossville Hall safe haven during Jasper disaster

| Chisa Hasegawa
Start the conversation
Rossville Hall meeting

Rossville Hall served as an essential location of communication as one of the few places in the community with power following the December 2023 flood event. Photo: Supplied.

Just weeks before Tropical Cyclone Jasper devasted the region in December 2023, an independent power system was installed at Rossville Hall, which made it one of the few places in the community to maintain an electricity supply during the disaster.

Although unexpected that it would be put to use so quickly, the hall became a safe haven and place of communication for the entire Rossville community.

Brad Smith, who was president of the Rossville and District Citizens Association at the time, said the group applied for a grant in early 2023 to create a “refuge during emergencies”.

“It gave the community a place to go where there was power, where there was communication, and that was the reason we went for the grant – to build resilience in remote communities that do get cut off often,” he explained.

“It provided running water, amenities and storage for food, but more important, it provided a meeting place to organise volunteers to go to people that needed help.”

On the morning of 18 December, Ergon Energy and Telstra’s 4G mobile network failed, leaving residents in the dark.

READ ALSO Rossville brings art and spirit back after Jasper devastation

“Apart from satellite internet [if owners had standalone power], the only way of communicating was through UHF channel 12, which had been mandated by the fire services in Rossville before the cyclone,” Mr Smith said.

“On 20 December, Cook Shire Council was able to fly in a Starlink internet unit, which because the hall had its own power, was crucial in allowing residents to communicate with the outside world in the chaotic aftermath of the flood.”

The grid connect solar system provided the hall with enough electricity to run eight power points that enabled fridges, freezers, lighting, fans and a water pump to successfully operate twenty-four seven during the event.

“Once road access had been established, supplies from Cooktown were able to be stored and processed at the hall in refrigerated units so that community members were able to eat and cook until mains power was restored to their homes,” Mr Smith said.

“It was a place where supplies could get either helicoptered in or driven in, and then distributed from there.”

Mr Smith also said he believed the system would also “dramatically reduce” Cook Shire Council’s power bill for the community asset in the future.

“The Rossville and District Citizens Association has been advocating for [the council] to adopt similar systems in other facilities in the shire to build resilience and to reduce costs for the benefit of taxpayers and the environment,” he said.

Phone charging station

The backup solar power system ensured residents could stay connected with the outside world in the chaotic aftermath of the flood event. Photo: Supplied.

Start the conversation

Cape York Weekly

Subscribe to get the latest edition of Cape York Weekly in your inbox each Monday.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Cape York Weekly's terms and conditions and privacy policy.