Great Barrier Island (New Zealand) vs. King Island (Tasmania, Australia)

Let’s start with the obvious part of the comparison then. King Island has without question the cooler name. However, in my opinion, Great Barrier Island (Aotea) can immediately even the score as it enjoys a warmer climate. The distance between Aotea and Auckland – by far the biggest city of New Zealand – is about 100 km and you can get there via plane or ferry. King Island’s closest major city is Melbourne and the distance between them is circa 260 km. Zoom into the Google Map insert at the top of this post and you will see that both islands are shaped quite similarly. Actually strikingly similar. Much longer than wide, stretching from south to north with beautiful and rugged beaches and bays on the east and west coasts. King Island is approximatively three times the size of Aotea, is considerably flatter and has a population density of 1.57 per square kilometre (about 1800) compared to 3 per square kilometre (930), respectively. It is going to get really interesting when you do a Google search for both island.

We are namely comparing now how the islands are branded and presented (at least on the internet), and how they are governed. By the latter I mean how all non-private stakeholders like local boards, councils, government, departments of conservation etc have developed and shaped these islands. Just click on the first 5 search results for each island. The websites for Great Barrier Island are substandard in comparison in pretty much all areas. There is actually no non-private website that is solely dedicated to Great Barrier Island. Check out: http://www.kingisland.net.au/ and http://www.kingisland.org.au/. King Island has over-employment in comparison to hardly any, residents and season workers enjoy a remote zone tax allowance, which offsets the extra cost of living in a remote area,  compared to ‘what is an allowance?’, tourism plays an equal role on both islands, but King Island has actually created industries with brands like KI Beef, KI Dairy, KI Kelp, KI Cloud Juice (Water). In terms of education, Great Barrier Island caters for youth from Kindergarten to year 8 and King Island to year 10. They are serious about over-employment, which is a bizarre word come to think of it, anyway, you can pretty much apply for jobs through the online portals.

Time to drop the bomb. Let’s talk (KIREIP) King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project and stop comparing from now on as it is futile to compare something with nothing. “…This month Hydro Tasmania achieved for the first time sustained periods of 100 per cent renewable energy penetration on King Island, supported by the use of its enabling technologies.  The project team expects that zero diesel operation will now occur for extended periods overnight when customer demand is lowest, and in daylight hours under high wind conditions….” (http://www.kingislandrenewableenergy.com.au/news/2013/kireip-reaches-renewable-energy-milestone). The King Island Renewable Energy Expansion (KIREX) programme (yes people, expansion in comparison to either shrugging shoulders, talking about visions and excuses*) enhances and further develops existing renewable energy producing sources like wind farms and solar arrays, Energy Storage Systems and the Smart Grid. In 2003, they installed a Vanadium Redox(flow) Battery Restoration System.

[*most common excuses: there is no power grid on Great Barrier Island, I bet the grid was on King Island before people inhabited it, it just was there…; Great Barrier Island is too remote for such an investment, well, King Island is more remote and has half the population density; Auckland Council and the Government have other problems than to increase the value and well-being of an island, which is New Zealand’s 5th largest island and crowned as the jewel of the Hauraki Gulf. Call it what you want, I keep calling it excuses and lack of foresight and long-term planning, and actually adopting to available technology. The opportunity is there to showcase this jewel as an example of future and wealth orientated small community focused development, to transform human inhabitance and input into collective wealth and satisfaction for residents, visitors and the island itself by reducing pollution, CO2 emissions for transport of goods and waste minimization, and providing employment opportunities to create overall growth.]

In terms of energy storage, the three leading technologies are sodium sulfur, lithium ion phosphate and vanadium redoxflow batteries, and a combination of them seems to be the ultimate renewable energy storage system. The beauty of the vanadium redoxflow battery is that only one electroactive element (instead of two) is used and that it is very feasible to ‘charge’ it by simply replacing the electrolyte similar to filling your car up with petrol at a gas station. Wow, they installed a system in 2003! We’ll have to wait until some student ‘re-invents’ the vanadium redoxflow battery in 10 years or so, so that it can be presented as Kiwi-ingenuity and as a showcase of the cutting edge research performed at the NZ universities.

When confronted with exaggeration and the use of superlatives in regards to Great Barrier Island, my response remains, what are our leaders doing to create industries, wealth and to develop a brand that fits not only the current Zeitgeist (climate change and renewable energy) but is also in accordance with technological advancement? We are lacking behind massively, everyone for themselves, patterns of thought and political solutions are either of the random walk principle or touch barely the surface of problems rather than grabbing it at the root and creating a path to a final solution.

In conclusion, on both islands, local residents, local politicians, councils, and the rest have all the same goal, namely to enhance the living conditions of the people, to provide opportunities for the communities, reduce waste and use of traditional fossil based fuel and to showcase the islands as utterly beautiful getaways eco-destinations for the tourism industry, but for King Island the foresight and investment to develop wealth by setting up industries and working toward zero-emission has created something much more valuable. And I’m going to say it, something the people can and arguably have a right to be proud of.

Would it be too critical to describe the efforts made for Great Barrier Island with words like ‘indifferent’, ‘incompetent’, ‘biased’, ‘ineffective’ or even ‘irresponsible’? Perhaps yes, but 2014, not one single solar array grid for the public on Great Barrier Island, not one single wind generator for the public, no plan of developing a grid, still unsure how to establish reliable mobile and landline phone connections, not one single energy storage system for the public and no sign of creating any industry, you cannot buy local meat, local fish, local dairy products and our brand remains “wow, it is so beautiful here and the people are soo nice.”

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