AusNet’s offer of $200K for high voltage transmission lines sparks landholder outrage
10th November, 2021
By Laura Mayers and Nicole Chvastek, ABC Ballarat
AusNet has released its compensation plan for landowners willing to give the company access for transmission lines for the Western Transmission Network Project.
- AusNet released an average compensation offer of $200,000 per tower line for the Western Transmission Network Project
- The company’s new Landholder Guide indicates it may seek to compulsorily acquire easements
- Farmers are rejecting AusNet’s offer
The controversial project proposes both 220-kilovolt and 500-kilovolt transmission lines to transport renewable energy from Bulgana, north of Ararat, to Melbourne.
If installed above ground, the transmission lines could be as tall as 85-metres high.
AusNet is preparing an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) for the project. Nearby farmers, tourism bodies and the Moorabool Council have expressed concerns around the project since it was announced in 2019.
A newly released Landholder Guide denotes information on land access, easements and compensation for owners.
It reveals landowners would receive financial compensation on a pro-rata basis, centred on the market value of the land.
The company has released an average cost of $200,000 per tower line, the figure derived from a total value of $50 million dollars over the properties.
AusNet said in the Landholder Guide, easement is voluntary — but the privately-owned company may compulsorily acquire easements over private land to erect the infrastructure with the approval of the Governor in Council.
Not a done deal
AusNet insists it’s not a ‘done deal’ – encouraging landholders to continue discussions with the company.
Speaking to Nicole Chvastek on ABC Victoria’s Statewide Drive Program, executive project director Stephanie McGregor said technical surveys would continue as AusNet prepares the EES.
“There is a genuine risk in that process that it won’t be in our favour,” Ms McGregor said.
The executive project director denied the company was not listening to landowners’ wishes for an underground solution.
“We’re required to look at both overhead and underground … as part of the EES process… the compensation process itself is agnostic of the actual physical solution.”
Ms McGregor said if in favour of allowing AusNet access, landowners could choose whether to be paid in a lump sum or over time.
“We’re very happy to have that conversation,” she said.
“We’re not at the point where we are making specific offers… but we are encouraging [landowners] to engage with us.”
Backlash from landowners
A resounding backlash from landowners continues, across the single proposed corridor through Waubra, Tourello, Newlyn and Coimadai — an area still under review by AusNet.
Newland Farmer Leah Fraser said she would not accept financial compensation for above-ground towers.
“There could possibly be up to seven towers that would run through this parcel of land at Mount Prospect … but no amount of money will allow AusNet onto this property,” Ms Fraser said firmly.
“The only way [landowners] will be happy … is if the terminal station is put in an industrial zone and the powerlines are put underground along the Western Highway.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Kingston farmer Louise Charleston.
“We’re going to potentially lose millions of dollars in income down how many generations of farming if these towers are going to be on our property,” Ms Charleston said.
“We can’t irrigate around them … We can’t aerial spray around them … and with the technologies that are constantly emerging in agriculture who knows what will be available to their children, our children, and these big eyesores are going to be in the way of how we want to farm.
“It doesn’t belong here.”