Hepburn Shire Council has expressed concern at the newly announced overhead transmission lines proposed as part of the Victoria – New South Wales Interconnector (VNI) West project.

VNI West is a proposed new high capacity 500 kilovolt (kV) double-circuit overhead transmission line between Victoria and New South Wales. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) announced the release of the Regulatory Investment Test (RIT-T) for Infrastructure for the project on Friday 29 July.

The proposed VNI West link would connect NSW to Ballarat via Kerang and Bendigo.

The project will include a transmission line from Kerang in northern Victoria to the proposed terminal station at Mount Prospect, being constructed as part of the Western Renewables Link. Potentially, there would be two separate transmission lines along separate routes meeting at the Mount Prospect terminal station. An existing 220 kV line connects Bendigo to Ballarat through Mount Prospect.

Deputy Mayor Cr Jen Bray said while Council was highly supportive of renewable energy, it strongly opposes above-ground transmission lines and the terminal station in the proposed location. “We have made our position clear that we are strongly opposed to transmission lines being above ground and along the route proposed for the Western Renewables Link (formerly Western Victoria Transmission Network Project). We are of the same view in relation to VNI West,” said Cr Bray.

“The prospect of additional overhead transmission infrastructure bisecting the Shire from north to south and connecting to the terminal station proposed in the Western Renewable Link is of great concern to the Council and Hepburn Shire community. Overhead transmission lines and the terminal station at Mount Prospect will have a significant impact on our valuable agricultural land, significant landscapes and the health and wellbeing of local people.

“The community and Council have made this loud and clear – we do not want this above ground infrastructure,” she said.

Council acknowledges that AEMO has engaged early with Council about its planning for the project and has been advised by Council that proper consultation needs to be undertaken with the Hepburn community.

Council will continue to seek detail about the project including the proposed alignment of the transmission line, the nature of the infrastructure and the environmental features and communities that will be impacted.

The VNI West Project Assessment Draft Report has been released for public comment for six weeks until 9 September 2022. It is available at https://www.transgrid.com.au/projects-innovation/victoria-to-nsw-interconnector-west. Council will review the report and provide a submission.

Transgrid and AEMO Planning Victoria will hold online afternoon information sessions about the Project Assessment Draft Report on Wednesday 10 and Thursday 25 August.

“We encourage everyone interested in this project to register via the Transgrid website and head along to the sessions to learn more about the project and make your voice heard,” said Cr Bray.

“Council is highly supportive of renewable energy, but our clean energy future must be based on trust with community. Planners of major infrastructure projects should ensure they secure appropriate social licence by addressing the environmental, social and economic implications for communities early in project development,” she said.

Council is assisting the community on the Environment Effects Statement (EES) process for the Western Renewables Link project which is the opportunity to comment on the need for undergrounding of transmission lines and improved placement of the proposed terminal station. It is expected the EES on the Western Renewables Link will be released in early 2023, with the outcome of that EES process having a significant impact on the VNI West project.


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