HumeLink for the Snowy 2.0 project may be moved to a route that cuts through national parks rather than TransGrid’s earlier preference to run it mainly through private land.
Snowy Valleys Council on Thursday (21 October) voted unanimously in favour of supporting the proposed public route – siding with landowners who have been very outspoken about their desire not to see what has been described as some of the “biggest transmission towers in the state” placed on their properties.
HumeLink is one of the state’s largest energy infrastructure projects, with about 360 km of proposed new transmission lines, and new or upgraded infrastructure at three substation locations. The route, as it stands, runs from Wagga Wagga to Bannaby, travelling through private land in areas such as Gundagai, Bookham, Yass and Taralga.
The landowners believe that the more direct route, through the national parks which are public land, makes more sense.
In the Snowy Valleys Council business paper it was recommended that councillors vote in favour of writing to TransGrid, telling them they would prefer Humelink towers utilise public land and that Humelink facilitates a compensation model to impacted landholders in the form of an annual payment rather than simple land acquisition, among other things.
Before the group voted, councillors Julia Ham and John Larter presented their reasons for voting in favour of this position.
Cr Ham identified three key points, stating she did not want Tumut to become a “birdcage”, that she was concerned about the impact on the region’s growing tourism industry, and that she believes a one-off payment to affected landowners is not fair compensation. Finally, she declared strongly that “public lines go on public land, wherever possible”.
Cr Larter spoke to his belief that National Parks had been “getting away with murder” when it comes to infrastructure projects. He said the public was sick of being held to ransom by organisations who do as they please, without consulting them.
Co-Chair of the HumeLink Action Group Jen Dumbrell said, despite council being a “little bit slow off the mark”, the result from the meeting was pleasing for the group, which has been outspoken about TransGrid’s proposal and delivery of the project since it was first introduced.
Ms Dumbrell believes it’s now time for other councils with affected landowners to follow suit.
“That’s why we elect them to council, they work for us,” she said, “the landowners, the ratepayers and the community, that’s their job. They should be there to support us.
“I would hope the other affected communities along the HumeLink line are supported by their councils.”
Discussions with TransGrid in the past week have been promising as they made the HumeLink Action Group leaders aware that they were commissioning an independent study on three routes that would take the HumeLink through public land.
For the landowners, the fact that they’re even considering utilising public land for the project is a huge victory, especially considering how persistent TransGrid was on using private land originally.
“They are taking us seriously now,” said Ms Dumbrell. “We are now getting somewhere and they will have some answers for us by the end of the year.”
The National Parks Association of NSW has previously spoken out against the Snowy 2.0 project and its impact on Kosciusko National Park. It is unlikely they’ll be supportive of the proposed public land route.
Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, described Snowy 2.0 as a critical project for New South Wales but wants assurances that the community is heard.
“It will help to reduce emissions across the National Electricity Market while delivering reliable and affordable power to New South Wales, at a lower cost to consumers.”
“Ensuring communities are heard on these major projects is critical. This is why in March this year I announced an expanded role for the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner to help ensure community concerns are addressed and resolved in relation to new energy projects, including wind farms, solar farms and new transmission projects,” said Minister Taylor.
This one appears far from over.