“Major infrastructure projects often divide communities but not in the case of the Western Victorian Transmission Line,” she said in Federal Parliament on Thursday. “The community has come together to fight the plan put forward by AEMO and being built by AusNet.
“It’s become increasing clear to all of us that the northern corridor to build the transmission lines and the terminal station at Mt Prospect is simply unviable and it is time to go back to the drawing board. The project should look to using existing corridors… and proper remuneration for all affected landholders.”
Hepburn Shire Council has also contributed forcefully to the debate. A letter from Shire CEO, Bradley Thomas, and Mayor, Cr Lesley Hewitt, was sent to 33 State and Federal Ministers and Shadow Ministers, state and federal members, and industry bodies including AEMO and DELWP. The letter outlines concerns about fire risk and impact on prime agricultural land, the social impact and the economic impact on tourism.
The letter advocates underground transmission where practical. “HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) underground cables are a technically feasible alternative that is likely to be more reliable and efficient for the movement of renewable energy to major centres whilst presenting significantly reduced impact to social and environmental factors.”
The letter expresses concerns about the already high fire risk in the community. “If history of bushfire events tells us anything transmission towers are a potential to cause fires and impact high risk human settlement areas… The harsh reality is that fire risk is already high. The community simply will not tolerate increased fire risk, and nor should they.” The letter continues, “fire seasons are now longer and more extreme than they were a few decades ago. Models of future climate change projections these trends show that this pattern is likely to continue.”
Council expressed concerns about impacts on agriculture. “Hepburn Shire Council has some of the most productive agricultural land in the state… This project in its current above ground form threatens the use of this land by restricting agricultural activities such as irrigation and tractor use around it.”
Council is represented on the Technical Reference group considering the proposal but is effectively muzzled by confidentiality agreements. The letter calls for increased transparency: “The community has repeatedly demanded that Council address the lack of transparency and Council considers this is a reasonable expectation.”