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Victorian Labor’s high voltage powerline shows contempt for farmers and regional communities

Victorian Labor’s plans to construct a high voltage powerline from Bulgana, north of Ararat, to Melbourne – across some of the best farming land in Australia – shows utter contempt for farmers and regional communities.

The Western Victorian Transmission Line Project, which is being planned by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AMEO) and built by Ausnet at the behest of the Victorian Government, must be re-routed and re-designed.

The current proposed route and design, which must be signed off by Victorian Energy Minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, will put at risk a region which produces some 15 per cent of Australia’s potatoes as well as thousands of jobs.

The proposed 85 metre high, 500 kilovolt, high voltage power line and the 40 to 100 metre easement required for its construction over some 190 kilometres (based on the current route) will severely impact on agriculture: farmers won’t be able to use drones or helicopters for spraying, spray gun irrigation will be heavily limited and the productivity of farming land will fall dramatically.

In a submission to the state government, Ballarat based potato goods manufacturer McCain says the proposed overhead transmission line directly threatens the loss of its production facility, over $250 million economic impact and more than 1,100 jobs.

Apart from threatening some of Victoria’s best farmland and tourism ventures such as local wineries, the proposed route, which runs south of the Lerderderg State Park, also poses a fire risk given its proximity to areas of high bushfire risk.

I have met with local residents including farmers and landowners in Myrniong and Mt Prospect, and last month attended the Stop AusNet Rally in Waubra.  As part of the project, Ausnet is proposing to build a massive transfer station at Mt Prospect which will severely impact this pristine farming area including the operations of fifth generation potato farmers Frank and Colleen Stephens and their son Peter.

The proposed route runs through the federal electorates of Ballarat and the newly created Hawke (encompassing Bacchus Marsh) but where is Catherine King?  As a member of Daniel Andrews’ social left faction, she is all talk no action.  Ms King has talked the talk in Parliament but done nothing to stop Victorian Labor destroy the lives and livelihoods of so many farming communities.

I also condemn Minister D’Ambrosio who continues to mislead Victorians by claiming, in letters to local landowners, that this is “private project”. This is false.  Not only is the transmission line required as a direct result of Labor’s disastrous planning of renewable projects in western Victoria, under the law the buck stops with the Victorian Energy Minister. It is a Victorian Government responsibility to contract the planning and construction of the power line, including to determine its environmental impact and sign off on its design and route.

Victorian Labor must go back to the drawing board, re-design and re-route this project and stop threatening the livelihoods of farming communities in western Victoria.

7 August 2021

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