- Actor Stephen Curry joined a community meeting at Myrniong protesting against a mega powerline project slated for the area
- AusNet said no clear route has been worked out, but concerned property owners were able to pinpoint where the line would go after receiving letters from the energy provider
- Those attending the meeting say they would prefer an underground powerline option
In a case of life now imitating art, the 44-year-old actor and comedian joined farmers fighting AusNet’s proposed high-voltage powerline project, which will run nearly 200 kilometres from Melton to a wind farm at Bulgana, north of Ararat in Victoria.
Even though Dale says his father, Darryl, likes powerlines as they are “a reminder of man’s ability to generate electricity”, landowners are upset with what they claim is a lack of genuine community consultation.
Despite claims from AusNet that no clear route has been determined, at a community meeting at Myrniong on Saturday the property owners who received AusNet letters placed pins on a map to show the possible line of the powerlines.
The Curry family have had a 20-acre property at Gordon near Ballarat since the 1960s and are yet to receive a letter from AusNet wanting access to their land, but their neighbours have been sent correspondence.
“We appear to be in that line of fire, so I’m not quite sure why we didn’t get a letter.”
Landowners who received letters from AusNet placed pins on a map.(ABC Ballarat: Lisa Martin)
Curry’s family were among the 200 people who attended the community meeting and have vowed to fight the project.
“Unfortunately for us, if it does go our way … we’re east-west 10 by 2 [kilometres] right in the firing line, so realistically the size of the easement they’re talking about would knock over every single tree,” he said.
‘A blight on the landscape’
Curry is concerned about the environmental impact as well as the increased bushfire risk posed by overhead powerlines in an already high fire danger area.
“We have koalas on [our property], echidnas on there, kangaroos, wallabies and incredible amount of native flora and fauna,” he said.
Curry says he backs running the powerline underground.
“There’s got to be a better alternative than this archaic technology … that is such a blight on the landscape,” he said.
“If they say they’ve been able to do underground wire technology in Japan, and they’ve had it for 40 years, the fact that we can’t do it here seems absolutely absurd.”
Asked what the Kerrigan family from The Castle would make of the proposal, Mr Curry said: “I don’t think Darryl Kerrigan would stand for it”.
“Someone did mention it to me before: ‘How’s the serenity?’ It’s a similar thing; obviously governments are involved in this and big business.
Kevin Maher voices his concerns at the community meeting.(ABC Ballarat: Lisa Martin)
Kevin Maher, a fifth-generation potato farmer from Springbank characterised the project as a “huge monstrosity”.
He said a third of the potatoes that went to the McCain Foods factory at Ballarat, to make chips, would be impacted by the powerline project.
Mr Maher was worried about electromagnetic field radiation from the powerlines affecting the quality and safety of his produce.
Moorabool Shire Mayor David Edwards said the council was pushing for the powerlines to go underground.
“For council to say, ‘We just want the project to go away’, that’s not reality,” he said.
“The project will go ahead … but what we’ve got to do is make sure it’s the least impact to the community.
Moorabool Shire Mayor David Edwards and council chief executive Derek Madden.(ABC Ballarat: Lisa Martin)
AusNet spokeswoman, Helena Lilley, said there had been no final decision on exact locations for the powerlines and coronavirus restrictions had affected the company’s ability to carry out community consultations.
“We still are very much in the process of consulting with communities and really trying to investigate what would be the best route within that broad mapped-out corridor on the website,” she said.
“At the moment, consultants are approaching all landowners across the identified corridor.”
Construction is likely to begin in two years after the planning process is completed.
Concerned farmers and landowners socially distancing at the community meeting.(ABC Ballarat: Lisa Martin)