20 August 2020

TransGrid executives visit Tumut to hear community concerns

| Edwina Mason
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Panoramic view of Willigobung range.

Under the current TransGrid proposal, Willigobung range will feature transmission towers traversing its ridgetops. Photo: Lucy Henderson.

Members of TransGrid’s senior executive team will be in Tumut today (Thursday, 20 August) to meet with and listen to landowners and community leaders about future consultation on new transmission lines proposed for the NSW electricity grid.

TransGrid executives are flying into Wagga Wagga to meet with community leaders representing landowners in areas including Yaven Creek, Lower Bago, Willigobung, Adjungbilly, Tumut, Gilmore, Batlow and Kyeamba, at the Snowy Valleys Council chambers.

It’s a dramatic turnaround for these communities who, in recent months, have felt unheard regarding their concerns about proposed routes for the energy network’s new HumeLink transmission line.

The proposed route for TransGrid's HumeLink.

The proposed route for TransGrid’s HumeLink, which will see transmission lines cross farms, forests and bushland northwards to Bannaby, near Taralga. Image: TransGrid.

TransGrid operates and manages the high-voltage network in NSW and the ACT. The company is responsible for reinforcing the transmission network in southern NSW to improve the flow of electricity between new generation sources and the state’s major demand centres.

Part of that proposal will see two 500Kv transmission lines linking a Snowy 2.0 substation at Maragle – in the Talbingo Catchment, east of Tumbarumba – with the metropolitan grid.

Each line will feature 70-metre easements. From Maragle, one will head northwest towards Wagga Wagga. The other will head towards Tumut.

Both will traverse mountains, state forests and farmland before converging again at Adjugbilly, then onto Bookham, Yass and Bannaby, northeast of Goulburn.

For communities living east of Kosciuszko National Park – an area known for its majestic mountain vistas – they can expect views of 65-metre transmission towers across the landscape. Landholders, many who have been severely impacted by bushfires, are set to lose precious farming land to a project they feel they have been kept largely in the dark about, with only an online interactive map provided for comments.

The 18-month community consultation period kicked off in February, just weeks after bushfires were finally brought under control in the Snowy Valleys region.

However, Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr has been listening as protest groups have formed and met. In early August, he went into bat for people impacted by the proposal during Question Time in NSW Parliament.

Dr McGirr is aware of the importance of Snowy Hydro 2.0, but said it is also vital the voices of residents are heard.

He asked NSW Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean if he would ensure appropriate, meaningful, face-to-face consultation with people affected directly or indirectly by the infrastructure and give genuine consideration to alternative routes.

TransGrid's timeline for the HumeLink project.

TransGrid’s timeline for the HumeLink project. Image: TransGrid.

Minister Kean told parliament he expected TransGrid to undertake “meaningful and extensive” engagement with local communities and to work with them on route design.

Two days later, Minister Kean used a Private Members’ Statement to reiterate his position.

“First, I expect TransGrid to undertake meaningful and extensive engagement with local communities impacted by these projects,” he said. “Meaningful engagement means local engagement, which means providing those people who are impacted by the project with many opportunities to engage with TransGrid representatives and work with them to find local solutions.

“Second, I expect TransGrid to work closely with local communities on route design. That means engaging in a frank and open manner with landowners about possibilities and restrictions.

“Third, I expect TransGrid to keep our communities informed and across the detail of the projects, and to listen to and act on any concerns raised. My clear message to TransGrid today is that no concern is too small.”

TransGrid’s head of corporate affairs, Graeme Wedderburn, said he will be in today’s meeting in Tumut and all future meetings to listen to the views and concerns of local people.

READ ALSO ‘For our children and grandchildren’: Hundreds fight TransGrid’s transmission line

“Local community leaders such as landowner Matt Pearce and Dr Joe McGirr MP have been very clear about wanting TransGrid’s people to meet face-to-face with local people, and today’s meeting is the first opportunity to do this,” he said.

“I’ve spoken directly with Mr Pearce and Dr McGirr during the past few weeks and I’d like to thank them both for convening the meeting today and for productive discussions on how meaningful and genuine consultation can occur for landowners in local communities with us about the project.

“We’ll be listening throughout the day, answering questions and committing to future consultation.”

Mr Wedderburn said TransGrid has fielded many calls and inquiries about the HumeLink project from people in communities all across the region, including Yass, Bannister and Bannaby

“We are committed to providing opportunities for consultation in all areas,” he said.

Consultation on the project will continue for another year.

TransGrid has also confirmed that face-to-face, COVID-19-safe consultation with landowners and community members will commence in meetings scheduled for late August (Tumut/Wagga Wagga region), September (other NSW regions), and thereafter so all communities can learn more about the project and have their say.

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