‘Many people are very afraid’: Coal City responds to industry deadline

People in the Western Australian town of Collie who have grown accustomed to living and working between coal mines and huge coal-fired power stations find themselves at a historic crossroads.

After years of contemplation, The WA government announced it would close the city’s two coal-fired power stations by the end of 2029, plowing billions of dollars into renewable energy and storage instead.

The news comes as no surprise to locals, who have been watching cities elsewhere in the country struggle with the drying up of their main lifeline while Australia faced a renewable energy future.

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

The collieries have employed four generations of Paul Moyses’ family.ABC News: Anthony Pancia

“We need to know what kind of industry we’re going to get here in Collie to train people to work in that industry.

“Nothing has happened so far.”

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

A wooden tower named "Collie" on a sign at the top.
Collie power plant will close in October 2027.ABC news: Hugh Sando

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

But she said the locals weren’t naive.

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

†[Coal] the best before date has certainly not passed, there is still a role to play for coal in the future.”

Three politicians stand behind a microphone with gray clouds in the background
Jodie Hanns announced the historic decision at the Muja power plant.ABC Southwest: Sam Bold

Ms Hanns said residents are reluctant to give up their established lifestyle.

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

Tourism helps the city’s rebirth

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

A woman in a blue shirt and black sweater is standing behind a desk
Janine Page says Collie is turning itself into a competitive tourist destination.ABC Southwest: Sam Bold

“I think for the families involved there will always be a little bit of nervousness,” she said.

A mural painted on a massive brick sheet pile
A mural spanning a dam wall at Collie has become a popular tourist attraction.ABC Southwest: Sam Bold

Ms Page said 27,000 people had stopped at the visitor center in the past year, the highest number ever.

“Tourism has been picking up all over Collie in recent years and we have more [projects] also planned,” she says.

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

A man in a blue shirt leans on a bicycle
Erik Mellegers is pleased with the way in which the government has tackled the transition so far.ABC Southwest: Sam Bold

He said the end of coal-fired power generation in heavy industry could change the spending habits of people in the city within the decade.

“Tourism won’t replace industry, but there could be a whole host of things that will replace what coal leaves behind,” he said.

“But ultimately we need to make sure that the industry stays in Collie in order for Collie to thrive in the short term.”

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