Farmers welcome new powerline inquiry

The state’s peak farming body has welcomed a new Parliamentary Committee to re-examine underground transmission lines following strong community outrage.

A recent government-dominated review into undergrounding high-voltage transmission lines ignored community concerns and strong opposition from the farming sector, recommending enormous above-ground towers and powerlines that would criss-cross towns and productive farmland.

Now, the Greens and Opposition have joined forces to establish a Select Committee into the feasibility of undergrounding the transmission infrastructure for renewable energy projects, which will be chaired by Cate Faehrmann MLC.

NSW Farmers Energy Transition spokesman Reg Kidd said the first inquiry heard overwhelming support for undergrounding transmission lines, and opposition to the way the Humelink project in particular had been carried out to date.

“What we have is farms and communities facing the prospect of enormous power towers overhead, and officials who refuse to consider an alternative,” Mr Kidd said.

“There has been a rushed effort from bureaucrats and developers determined to bulldoze their way through rather than recognise the impacts of their plans.

“There is also a political angle to this, but the fact is both sides need to admit mistakes have been made and the emotional toll on farmers and communities has been enormous.”

According to a statement from Ms Faehrmann: “During the previous inquiry, every witness we heard from, bar Transgrid, opposed overhead transmission lines.”

Mr Kidd said the previous inquiry did recommend better planning and community consultation before any future renewable energy zones were declared, but the problem remained with how to connect existing projects to the grid.

“We’re moving from existing power stations on the coast, which are already connected to gridlines, to multiple inland sites in productive agricultural areas,” Mr Kidd said.

“Out of sight, out of mind seems to have been the real reason to dismiss undergrounding, but if these things were being built in Manly or Marrickville I’m certain there would be a very different cost-benefit analysis.

“People in rural and regional NSW will bear the brunt of moving power generation from the coast to the bush, and they can’t be expected to pay the price to keep the lights on in Sydney.

“Hopefully we’ll find a better way forward for the existing projects, and a far better process for any future projects.”

Date: Friday, September 15, 2023
Media Contact: Steve Mudd  | 0429 011 690 | [email protected]