17 June 2021
In April 2021, AusNet introduced a Community Consultation Group (CCG), in a bid to improve twelve months of negligent community consultation surrounding the proposed Western Victoria Transmission Network, that will run across prime agricultural land and residential homes from Bulgana (near Ararat) to Sydenham in Melbourne's West.
After six weeks of engagement and promises from AusNet that “the Community Consultation Group will support the flow of information to the community about the project and encourage constructive two-way discussion”, community participants are still being kept in the dark by the energy provider.
Katherine Myers from the Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance alleges that “The Western Victoria Transmission Network’s Community Consultation Group is simply making patsies of the community participants, who volunteered in good faith to take part as representatives of their broader communities”.
Participants allege that AusNet continues to massage meeting minutes by excluding and or changing the tone of anything that may damage their reputation, refuse to answer questions with blanket “commercial in confidence” responses, and when pressed for information that can be passed onto the broader community, are told, “nothing at this time”. As a result, a number of CCG participants are threatening to resign from the Group.
CCG participant Katherine Myers said, “I came into the AusNet CCG, desperate for information. I also felt responsible for representing my local community. But all I encountered was the manipulation of our group discussions and a wall of silence from AusNet representatives.”
CCG members refute AusNet’s suggestion that the Group is representative of the impacted community, because many community members were reluctant to apply, due to an onerous application process, which included a confusing ‘conflict of interest’ disclosure that seemed designed to deliberately mislead and deter people from applying.
“As a result, we simply do not have an appropriate cross section of the community represented on the AusNet CCG,” said Mrs Myers.
At the latest AusNet CCG (9 June), AusNet told the group they will let impacted landowners know about the final corridor sometime mid-year by text message.
“AusNet refuses to demonstrate an ounce of empathy for the distress we are experiencing and the manner in which they engage with us. We are facing the prospect of losing our homes and livelihoods. The mental health of our families may never recover from this.”
“This is also much bigger than affected landowners. This is about the death of local agriculture and manufacturing, shattered tourism and the collapse of local economies,” said Mrs Myers.
The Stop Ausnet’s Towers Community Alliance is currently challenging the validity of process undertaken by AEMO that authorised the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project.
CONTACT: Katherine Myers, MCHPA, 0437 194 505
MORE INFORMATION: stopausnetstowers.com.au or facebook.com/stopausnetstowers
The Stop AusNet's Towers Campaign is powered by the Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance