Dave Lambert, from the Rainbow Power Company in Nimbin, says solar panels fitted under the Energy Efficient Homes Project all comply with Australian Standards.
Dave Lambert, from the Rainbow Power Company in Nimbin, says solar panels fitted under the Energy Efficient Homes Project all comply with Australian Standards. CATHY ADAMS

Insulation jobs take a battering

HUNDREDS of Northern Rivers insulation workers are being laid off following the sudden suspension of the Government’s home insulation program last Friday.

Dozens of local insulation businesses face closure while long-term players with other income sources believe they can survive.

Insulation installers across the region report business grinding to a sudden halt leaving them no option but to sack staff – while on the other end of the Government’s home energy program, local solar installers have questioned the accuracy of reports linking solar panels to fire risk.

Northern Rivers Insulation owner John Breeze, who put on 11 workers last year to carry out the extra work, had only just paid for their training at a cost $2500.

“After investing in the training we’ve had to lay off five last week and the rest will go within a week,” he said

Mr Breeze said he had been in the business a long time and would survive but he was concerned for his workers.

“Some of them are really struggling now,” he said.

“Things don’t look good in the short term because no one will purchase insulation over the next few months if the program is to be revived in June.”

Merv Hourigan, manager of The Woolman at Alstonville, said insulation work had come to a standstill and he had laid off 16 workers.

He was surviving by selling and installing sky-lights and roof ventilators

Mr Hourigan had about 250 insulation jobs on his books last week which have all since been cancelled.

“We’re down to a couple of guys on for three or four half days a week,” he said.

“But we will survive; we’ve been here 12 years.”

Another long-term player, Access Insulation, insulates new homes for builders and is less dependent on the Government program.

Owner David Comerford still reported a 60 per cent downturn in business since Friday but was hoping to retain his staff.

“We never thought it would happen this quickly. Hopefully they will spread the workload out a bit better if it’s reintroduced in June.”

The Insulation Council of Australia and New Zealand has described the decision as disastrous.

“Without any consultation with industry and rational transitional arrangements in place, the industry will now be thrown into complete disarray,” CEO Dennis D’Arcy said.

Meanwhile the Rainbow Power Company’s David Lambert has questioned the recent fire safety fears for photovoltaic solar panel installations and suspects there is more than a little political-point scoring going on.

“There have been 100,000 installations and no fires,” he said.

“It really is a beat-up. All panels sold under the rebate have been independently tested ... and all the wiring is done with approved plugs and cables. We take great care and we’ve very confident of our work.”

 



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