Last week, the state government announced a preferred development plan for the controversial Victoria to New South Wales Interconnector West project.

VNI West, is the government’s plan to deliver 500 kilovolt overhead transmission lines from Bulgana, south-east of Stawell in Victoria, to just north of Jerilderie in NSW.

The project is part of the state government’s push to reach its target of 95 per cent renewable energy by 2035 but it has consistently drawn criticism from  farmers and landowners who are concerned about the impacts on their land.

The preferred route in the north of the state is different from the route which and been advised to landholders. The new route will cross the Murray River north of Kerang rather than at Echuca. The proposed route will then pass through Boort, Charlton, west of St Arnaud and through Navare. The link will join the Western Renewables Link at at a new terminal station at Bulgana.

The proposal for the Western Renewables Link remains unchanged. An earlier proposal for a terminal station at Mount Pleasant has been removed but the proposed route for the Link through Hepburn Shire remains unchanged.

Hepburn Shire Council still has serious concerns about the increase in size of transmission line towers and the abject lack of genuine consideration for undergrounding lines.

“The community and Council have campaigned strongly against the location of the terminal station in our Shire, consequently we are very pleased to see it is no longer the preferred option,” said Mayor of Hepburn Shire, Cr Brian Hood.

“At the same time, we feel for the communities who are now facing the unwelcome prospect of a terminal station and towers in their region. We sincerely hope AEMO and Transgrid will engage more closely with the community as the projects continue,” he said.

Cr Hood said the biggest concerns for Hepburn Shire Council now are the significant towers and easements planned as part of the proposed Western Renewables Link (WRL) corridor, which forms part of VNI West.

“This is a beautiful part of the world. There is strong visitation and economic activity through tourism and it is also some of the best agricultural land in Victoria. It is incredibly disappointing that undergrounding transmission lines has not been genuinely considered in either project given these towers will be up to 80 metres high and easements up to 100 metres wide,” said Cr Hood.

“Farmers will face the unwelcome prospect of massive easements around transmission infrastructure on their property, thereby restricting agricultural activities in this incredibly productive land,” he said.

“Given these challenges we question the rationale of maintaining the currently proposed alignment of WRL through Hepburn Shire now that the terminal station will be relocated. On that basis we will be continuing to advocate strongly for a change to the proposed route.”

“While Council is highly supportive of renewable energy there has been a missed opportunity for genuine consideration for placing powerlines underground in some of the more sensitive areas. The refusal to consider that option represents inappropriately short-term thinking,” said Cr Hood.

“We encourage the community to continue to make their voices heard throughout this process, including the upcoming Environmental Impact Assessment process,” he said.

The VNI West Project Assessment Conclusions Report is available on the AEMO website.

Related Stories:

Council Welcomes Review of Transmission Lines and Terminal Station

Council Makes a Strong Submission on VNI West