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    Picture: Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance

Regional clash over electricity tower project


Western Victorian regions appear on course to meet at loggerheads over a proposed transmission-line project to generate greater renewable-energy opportunities in the state.

Wimmera and southern Mallee development leaders have long lobbied for and argued the infrastructure represented millions of investment dollars in the state’s west.

But a vocal Central Highlands-Moorabool movement is determined to ensure the project, under the direction of energy company AusNet Services and involving a corridor route with towers, overhead lines and substations from the Wimmera to Melbourne, does not happen as planned.

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A Stop AusNet Towers Community Alliance, in latest developments in a fight against Western Victorian Transmission Network Project proposals, is hosting a series of information sessions between Melbourne and Ballarat. The sessions are designed to provide updates about legal challenges, land-access-rights issues and an impending announcement of a final alignment corridor.

The alliance believes the proposed transmission line and substation will have a devastating and irreversible effect on its region, people, businesses and the environment.

A need to redevelop electrical infrastructure across western Victoria to carry power loads generated by wind, solar and bioenergy farms in the west of the state is well documented.

Stop AusNet’s Towers Campaign chair Emma Muir said AusNet had not listened or acted upon ‘vast’ community and business concerns.

“No amount of money saves our lives and no amount of money saves the irreversible environmental damage. This community is not for sale and no amount of compensation can buy our safety and future,” she said.

“A legacy of more devastating overhead transmission lines isn’t part of a cleaner future for the 21st century and beyond, anywhere across our beautiful state. Our community has decided to take a stand.”

Ms Muir said the group was taking legal action against AusNet and the Australian Energy Market Operator.

“This project must be reassessed and put underground. We urge all Victorians to get involved because the issue of overhead transmission lines will affect each and every one of us, as we head into this renewable-energy transition,” she said.

Wimmera Development Association, meanwhile, remains unmoved in its position that the transmission project must happen ‘sooner, rather than later’. Association executive director Chris Sounness said the project was an ‘absolute’ priority in opening renewable-energy and accompanying long-awaited energy-based development opportunities in the Wimmera and southern Mallee.

“The longer the project is delayed, the less opportunities our region will have, particularly in comparison with other areas in the state, for economic growth,” he said.

“While we understand the concerns of other regions about what this means for them, it is at the top of our list. We don’t have these large-scale types of development opportunities, particularly in the Wimmera, coming up very often, if ever. So we must grasp it with both hands.

“The reality is, we simply need it to happen as soon as possible. We have renewable-energy investors waiting in the wings to come to our part of the world to set up circumstance-changing jobs and productivity, which we have been desperately crying out for for decades.

“The vast majority of development in Victoria has historically occurred in Melbourne or within a 150-kilometre radius around the city. This is a rare chance for us and every delaying tactic has an impact on how well the Wimmera and southern Mallee can close the development gap with other parts of the state.

“Instead of a pushing to reassess this project, there should be a push to ensure it happens. We’re not just talking about two regions here – we’re talking a state and federal necessity.”

The association represents the development interests of Horsham, Northern Grampians, Yarriambiack, Hindmarsh and West Wimmera municipal councils.

The entire November 24, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire November 24, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!