Council supports farmers in transmission fight
Published on 26 April 2023
Northern Grampians Shire Council has issued a harsh rebuke of the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), citing its abject failure to answer local landowners' questions about controversial power transmission infrastructure.
Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin said there was absolutely no justification whatsoever that the legitimate concerns of landowners remained unanswered at this stage of the project.
“We are talking about one of the biggest rural energy infrastructure projects built in the past 60 years, and the government’s planner can’t confirm how it will operate on the easement,” Cr Erwin said.
“Making matters worse is the acceleration of the project from concept, final recommendation (expected within the fortnight), route refinement and works commencing in Spring.
“Since the proposal was first announced in late February, council has co-hosted a community information evening with the Victorian Farmers Federation, initiated two online forums, made a formal submission, and authorised another public meeting in St Arnaud last week. This is underlined by our CEO on his listening tour talking to St Arnaud farmers, community groups and businesses.
“People have given freely of their time to participate in these discussions, but the expectation that it would lead to some answers has so far been unfounded.
“I think many people would be surprised to learn that AEMO didn’t brief councillors on the project until 3 April, just two days before the deadline for lodging our own submission!
“Council is required under the Local Government Act to undertake deliberative engagement about key decisions. This includes providing the community with access to objective, relevant and timely information to inform their participation and guide the decisions we make.
“In stark contrast, it’s unbelievable that the opportunity for community feedback has closed, but key concerns about property access rights, land values, biosecurity and permitted farming practices on transmission easements have not been addressed.”
Councillors met this week to support three resolutions moved by cornered local landowners at a major public meeting at St Arnaud Town Hall on Monday 17 April. Council sees this as vital given the paramount importance of agriculture to the shire and its agriculture communities.
The resolutions (included in-full below) are seeking that regulatory consideration of the project be suspended; the Victorian Government respond to the issues raised in the Professors Bartlett/Mountain submission; and the planning processes leading to the development of this project be investigated.
“These resolutions seem fair minded and reasonable, with landowners just wanting answers to important concerns that will have an impact on their farms,” Cr Erwin continued.
“Generations of families are raised on local farms - people who underpin our community groups and sporting clubs and sustain our small towns and the wider economy.
"This process seems to have a greater emphasis on ticking the box that an engagement process was followed but with little consideration of the outcome.
“It’s time to recognise that our farms are not only businesses, but they are people’s homes that support the livelihoods of local families and community members who must be respected.” Cr Erwin concluded.
Resolutions supported unanimously at the St Arnaud Community Meeting – 17 April 2023
Instruct the Australian Energy Market Operator (Victorian Planner) to suspend any further regulatory consideration of the Western Renewables Link – VNI West as soon as possible.
Request the Victorian Government to respond publicly to the issues raised in the Bartlett/Mountain submission, including alternate forms of transmission and power.
We request that the Minister for Energy and Resources, State Electricity Commission and Climate Action, The Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP further investigate the lack of transparency and due diligence displayed by AEMO which has been highlighted by Professors Bartlett, Mountain and the broader community.
For further information contact:
Media & Communications Officer – Lauren Shipman