Sue Rowbottom says a fractured power pole on her family’s farm at St Helens north of Port Fairy is at least 42 years old and could even be an original from when mains power came to the area in 1954.
Mrs Rowbottom said the pole, into which a 46 centimetre (18 inches) screwdriver can be inserted almost to the handle, has been deteriorating since her family moved on to the farm in 1976.
The pole, near the family’s home and woolshed, has both steel and timber supports at its rotted base and is also supported by a stay wire.
The poor state of the pole and her family’s efforts over the years to get a more reliable power supply have made Mrs Rowbottom a keen supporter of the community campaign for safer power poles in the south-west.
The campaign has arisen since the St Patrick’s Day fires last year. All of the fires were started by electrical assets.
Mrs Rowbottom’s family are wool and lamb producers and she said the region’s sheep industry, as well the dairy industry, was threatened by sub-standard power poles and poor power supply.
Many farms in the St Helens area had “dodgy” power poles, she said.
Mrs Rowbottom said her extended family had direct experience of a power pole causing a fire.
A pole, which had been condemned, fell down and started a fire in a paddock about 20 years ago. The fire fortunately was contained to the paddock, Mrs Rowbottom said.
Her family’ farm was the last on the power line from Yambuk and in the early days, the power supply weakened when dairies further back on the line were milking.
“You knew you had to turn the dial up high on the toaster in the morning to cook the toast,” she said.
The fluctuating power supply also caused problems for the farm’s production, twice burning out the electrics in a wool press when the power slumped, Mrs Rowbottom said.
Those working the press had learnt not to turn it on when the shearers’ handpieces slowed, indicating the power supply had dropped.
Mrs Rowbottom said the family fought to get the power line upgraded and Powercor put in a regulator last November that had improved the supply. But she said the lack of three-phase power in the area had forced some farmers to install generators to develop their farms.