Gippsland Farmers Slam AusNet Proposal

Gippsland farmers slam AusNet proposal to link renewable energy to grid via overhead transmission lines

31st May, 2022

By Peter Somerville, ABC Rural


Three farmers stand in a paddock where a transmission line is proposed to be built.
Farmers Mick Ryan, David Matthews and Helen Milne are oppose AusNet’s proposed overhead electricity transmission line.(ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville)

Farmers have banded together to oppose a new 80-metre-high electricity transmission line proposed in Victoria’s east.

Key points:

  • AusNet has announced a proposal to build an overhead transmission line linking a renewable energy development with the main grid
  • The 80-metre-high towers would pass through 48 properties along the proposed route
  • Farmers at Giffard have vowed to fight the proposal and push for it to be built underground

The line is required to transport electricity from the Victoria’s first “renewable energy zone” to the grid in the Latrobe Valley.

AusNet has identified 48 landowners along the route from Giffard to Hazelwood via Longford and has sought access to conduct site investigations.

However, the proposed route has not yet been released publicly.

Neighbours David Matthews and Helen Milne farm at Giffard and have been shown maps outlining where the line could cut through their properties.

Along with others, they have pieced together some of the proposed route.

AusNet has pursued plans for an overhead transmission line with landowners, however in a statement to the ABC, a spokesperson said the company had not ruled out building the line underground.

Three farmers stand looking at a map on a kitchen table
Giffard farmers David Matthews, Helen Milne and Mick Ryan have produced a map showing where transmission lines are proposed to run.(ABC Gippsland: Peter Somerville)

‘Never in a million years’

Mr Matthews and Ms Milne oppose the overhead line, but say they would be open to an underground option.

Mr Matthews said “never in a million years” would he accept any amount of compensation for an overhead line.

“We’d much prefer never having heard of AusNet, but given renewable energy is a thing and climate change is going ahead we’re happy to see it going ahead, but underground where it doesn’t affect our values,” he said.

“The underground option would be infinitely more preferable … they claim it as more expensive but we believe that’s almost irrelevant – what we want to see is best practice, not dodgy towers.”

Mr Matthews said two other transmission lines proposed in Gippsland – for the Star of the South wind farm and another to transport electricity to Tasmania – have both committed to building underground.

A community opposed

Ms Milne farms with her partner Mick Ryan, and said they knew of 25 landholders opposed to the overhead towers.

“The towers are 80 metres tall, so you can just imagine how that’d look,” Ms Milne said.

“It’d just destroy the visual amenity of the place and world’s best practice is to go underground.

“In our case we’d have three pylons [on our farm] and the transmission line is going to be about 400 metres from our house so it’ll be highly visible.”

Mr Ryan said he was concerned about the biosecurity implications of having contractors working on his property.

“They’ve told us they’ll be able to wash down their vehicles but that’ll be at your front gate and who’s going to police it?

“I’ve got some neighbours who have the existing Basslink line going through their properties and they’ve had trouble trying to move cattle through gates where the powerlines are, so that’ll be a huge issue.”

Ms Milne said the couple moved to Gippsland six years ago and endured three years “of the worst drought ever recorded in this district”.

A page from a booklet provided to landowners along the route.
A guide supplied to landowners shows the towers could be up to 80 metres high and require a 100-metre easement.(Supplied: AusNet)

“We’ve only just started getting back on our feet now and now they’ve thrown this at us, it’s really hard to keep that feeling of resilience up.

“It’s distressing to even contemplate the proposal of overhead lines going through our property.”

Underground possible: AusNet

AusNet said it would contact all landholders along the route before releasing the information publicly.

“The ultimate design, including whether overhead, underground or a combination of both is developed, will depend on a number of factors, including whether we can get the commercial model to work, community feedback and further environmental and technical studies,” a spokesperson said.

“The exact amount of the total package and the amount [of compensation] each landholder will receive will not be known until we have determined if we have a viable project and at the end of the negotiations with landholders.”

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