A popular far north Queensland tourist park which once led the nation in its use of hydro-electricity is once again running on green power, thanks to a $45,000 heritage grant from the Bligh Government.

State Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said Paronella Park near Innisfail ran Queensland’s first privately owned hydro-electric scheme in the 1930s, years before the famous public Snowy Mountains scheme in New South Wales was even considered.

[singlepic id=135 w=320 h=240 float=left]“Now it’s running on green power once again, harnessing the nearby Mena Creek Falls just as it did more than 80 years ago,” Mr Pitt said.

“Thanks to the Living Buildings and Places grant the original hydro turbine and generator have been refurbished and are now connected to the power grid.

Mr Pitt said it was a case of ‘everything old is new again’.

“Jose Paronella was a visionary and was years ahead of his time. Paronella Park demonstrated the earliest application of hydro-electric technology in Queensland,” Mr Pitt said.

“Back in 1933, it not only powered Jose Paronella’s own pleasure garden but was also capable of supplying electricity to the neighbouring town of Mena Creek.

“At a time when the community and businesses are being urged to consider ways of curbing greenhouse gases, this is an exciting and inspirational project for which Mark and Judy should be commended.

“They are leaders in the local tourism industry and now they are leaders in embracing sustainable technology.”

Mark and Judy Evans, who have owned and run Paronella Park for the past 16 years, are thrilled the park is once again running on green power.

“One of our dreams has always been to get the turbine and generator up and running again. It’s one of the big things that our visitors have talked about over the years,” Mrs Evans said.

“After Cyclone Larry we were without power for so long and we often thought how great it would have been to have had the hydro-electric system going.

“One of the main reasons behind the project was to restore the park’s heritage integrity. Basically we have always wanted to continue Jose’s dream.

Mrs Evans said the other reason for refurbishing the turbine was to further the park’s eco-credentials.

“Paronella Park is eco-certified and using hydro-electric power is just another step towards the park becoming properly ‘green’ and not just ‘pretend green’,” she said.

The $45,000 grant covered 10 per cent of the refurbishment costs with the remainder being supplied by the owners and park visitors.

“We were so thrilled by the support of the hundreds of visitors who donated a total of $15,000 towards the project,” Mrs Evans said.

“The hydro-electric system now provides all of the power we need as well as putting additional power back into the grid.”

Mrs Evans said they had an agreement in place with an energy company that purchases the excess power produced by the hydro-electric system.

Mr Pitt said the $5 million Living Buildings and Places grant program is administered by the Department of Environment and Resource Management’s Heritage branch.

“The program was developed to assist private owners of heritage properties and community groups,” Mr Pitt said.

“It recognises that there’s a lot of responsibility – and cost – in maintaining our built heritage responsibly and that property owners need assistance to act as custodians of our cultural history.”

Further information

• Set on five hectares of rainforest beside Mena Creek Falls, Paronella Park is a popular destination for international and local day trippers – voted Number One on the RACQ Queensland 150 Must-Dos list.

• The park was designed and constructed by Jose Paronella, a Spanish immigrant, and includes ornamental gardens, planted trees, meadow and rainforest.

• The park is entered in the Queensland Heritage Register.

• It is unique in Queensland, and is a rare and unusual example of an early tourist attraction.

• Fire put the original hydro-generator out of commission back in 1979.