Stop AusNet’s Towers Newsletter – December 2021

The Inner Struggle

Transmission Project – The Inner Struggle

Dearest Community Members,

Tragedy or traumatic experiences are devastating to the human spirit. Even imagined scenarios can elicit fear or cause trauma.  They also can be a catalyst to bring people together. This is especially true for Australians. We are no stranger to catastrophic fires and floods. Australians have a special strength in enduring. Yet, before we can get there, we need to feel and understand our experience. And there is an opportunity in this process to bind us together as human beings. By acknowledging our pain and suffering we can become stronger, because it is our humanness, our feelings and emotions that join us as a community. Connecting heart to heart can help us fight and heal.

We are all important!  We all have our horrific stories of the personal and professional losses due to the announcement of the WVTNP. Most of us are experiencing devastation and trauma put forth by Lily D’Ambrosio and her AusNet project. This transmission route, the bullying of AusNet and their employees, the lies of this company and the Project Manager Stephanie McGregor, and the lack of genuine response from government is traumatic. Here and now, and in the foreseeable future, it is destroying our lives.

We need Victorian’s and all Australians to see our pain and feel our losses.

We have heard from the community members that many of you are struggling with mental health issues, and some are in crisis. This process can take many forms and look different for everyone. Some people feel depressed, others experiencing anxiety, or both. Some people feel hopeless, or fearful and that paralyses them. Some feel overwhelming anger, sadness or grief. Maybe you can’t sleep, or maybe you can’t get out of bed. Some people are isolating or losing interest in life in general. Some people drink more or often struggle just to be. “What’s the point anyway, if AusNet will just come and destroy it all?” That’s what I’ve been saying. Personally, I just want to sit in the chair and wait to die. A loss of all joy in life. And I am seeking professional help because of AusNet.

We, as a committee understand. We feel it too and are worried for our people. We are worried people will step back, fall apart or worse hurt themselves.

We want everyone to survive this tragedy. We want you to live the life you dreamed. So, we strongly encourage all members experiencing any changes in behavior, or feelings affecting their lives over this issue to seek help. Here are some suggestions for help.

Always call 000 in an emergency situation.

Call Lifeline 13 11 14

Call Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 or online Anxiety, depression and suicide prevention support – Beyond Blue

See your GP for support and guidance

Contact Reach Out https://au.reachout.com/

See a mental health professional directly

Please do not keep yourself in knots, get help today. Please write your letters to AEMO, Andrew Dyer the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissionaire and this government, expressing your pain and the damage it is doing to you. Tell your story. Speak your words about your life and the losses you will incur if this project is allowed to continue.

Getting help for this tragedy is good, yet, it does not make the problem go away. It does help us deal with the problem. There are several major issues here. One is the WVTN Project is directly causing mental health issues or trauma for most of us.  Second, is the treatment by AusNet with constant bullying and forcing their way through this project with total disregard for any of us. A project that will cause irreversible damage to our lives is unacceptable and causing mental health issues.  Third is the total lack of concern by the Andrew’s government to acknowledge or help us.

We must continue to fight personally and communally. There is still HOPE! We must be more engaged and involved. We need to rile up the towns and people along this route. We need more members. Talk to everyone you know about this heartbreaking disaster. Ask them to tell everyone they know. Talk to the local businesses you use, inform them. Continue to be vocal on social media and sending letters.  We need more funding. We need you, your story and your help. Let’s come together stronger than ever and continue this fight for our lives.

We are worth it!

community angrier than ever

AusNet’s Announcement of Final Preferred Transmission Path for the WVTNP has the community angrier than ever.

26th November 2021

AusNet’s final preferred transmission path announcement today regarding the proposed Western Victoria Transmission Network Project, is a continued demonstration of their unwillingness to absorb and suitably respond to the many thousands of voices opposed to the project.

The proposed transmission line and terminal station will have a devastating and irreversible effect on the region, it’s tens of thousands of community members, hundreds of businesses and on the natural environment.

This announcement has been made in the early stages of the  Environmental Effects Statement (EES), reportedly the most rigorous environmental impact assessment process in Victoria. The EES process is administered by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) on behalf of Victoria’s Minister for Planning under the Environment Effects Act 1978. The purpose of the EES is to ensure that major projects are designed, constructed, and operated to avoid, minimise (if avoidance is not possible) or manage adverse impacts on environment and community, in that specific order.

Stop AusNet’s Towers Campaign Chair, Emma Muir said, “Today’s announcement comes as a bitter message to the community who have opposed this project from day one. AusNet have not listened or acted upon the vast concerns brought to them by the community and businesses. AusNet have not undertaken comprehensive EES studies across all areas as they claim and this announcement is premature. This announced route mirrors the same hypothetical line that we drew on a map 14 months, it is essentially a straight line that delivers the cheapest option for AusNet but the most impactful and dangerous option for the community.”

Parts of the proposed route run through Victoria’s most high risk bushfire areas as well as prime agricultural land.

In spite of significant community opposition supported by a wealth of evidence that demonstrates the severe economic and environmental damage combined with considerable heightened risks AusNet continues to steamroll ahead.”

“No amount of money saves our lives and no amount of money saves the irreversible environmental damage. This community is not for sale and no amount of compensation can buy our safety and future.”

“We deserve better in Victoria, our children deserve better. A legacy of more and more devastating overhead transmission lines isn’t part of a cleaner future for the 21st century and beyond, anywhere across our beautiful state.” 

Our community has decided to take a stand.  The proposed approach by AusNet cannot be allowed to proceed.  There is too much at stake, not just for our large community of concerned citizens, but for all Victorians. The impact on our communities is irreversible and unacceptable when there are better ways to deliver this project that need to be explored.”

Recent months have brought about a stepping up of AusNet’s aggressive bullying and stand-over tactics on affected communities.

AusNet has a long and continued history of community disregard. In the Black Saturday Bushfire Civil Court case, AusNet argued that they should not be held legally responsible to pay damages to people who were injured in the fire, to families of people killed in the fire, or to people whose homes were destroyed in the fire.

In 2020, a storm north of Colac led to six transmission towers being knocked to the ground. This energy failure cost Victorians millions of dollars because AusNet were not held responsible for damages caused to their infrastructure.

Again, in June and October this year, the unnecessary risk of AusNet’s overhead power distribution lines led to hundreds of thousands of homes throughout Victoria being without power for long periods.A recent independent report from The Moorabool Shire Council confirms that underground HVDC cables are a viable, safer, more reliable and more efficient alternative to the outdated and high-risk overhead HVAC proposed for the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project.

Community Alliance Group Stop AusNet’s Towers say enough is enough. “We are taking legal action to fight AusNet and AEMO. This project must be reassessed and put underground. We urge all Victorian’s to get involved because the issue of overhead transmission lines will affect each and every one of us, as we head into this renewable energy transition,” said Mrs Muir.

AusNet Fake News

We call out AusNet’s Underground Construction Summary as ‘fake news’

On 26 November AusNet announced the preferred transmission route for the Western Victorian Transmission Network Project (WVTNP). In a contemptable piece of ‘fake news’ dressed up as fact, AusNet also released their preliminary findings into its studies of undergrounding alternatives.

The summary presents words, pictures, simplistic diagrams and many icons, but very little detail on design and no detail on cost. AusNet present their summary as fact, and reported it in the Moorabool News, 30 Nov 21, to give it the appearance of a credible expert report – but I strongly disagree.

AusNet’s summary is carefully constructed ‘spin’, which has the pretence of an engineering assessment and has been cynically used to publish a large, but unsubstantiated, cost to put their HVAC system underground.

It looks to me that AusNet think that they have convinced Minister Lily D’Ambrosio against undergrounding HVDC, and now this so called ‘report’ is designed to try and also dissuade her from putting HVAC underground, in favour of pushing on with their overhead design.

According to page 2 of AusNet’s summary these are only “preliminary findings” and they have not been peer reviewed. Likewise, the “technical specialists” who compiled the information are not identified or credentialled, nor is any information referenced to allow independent verification.

What this means is that the information AusNet is presenting is not necessarily objective, nor professional, nor correct. They make a throwaway claim that undergrounding HVAC would be 16 times more expensive than going overhead (on their routes) but provide no details on the breakdown of this cost or how they put this number together. This smacks of ‘false advertising’ with sources, detail and references hidden, rather than a professional engineering report.

In contrast, the views on undergrounding argued by the STOP AUSNET’S TOWERS campaign, various impacted Council’s, and many in the community, have been validated by expert advice and by industry analysis and investment, e.g.:

  • The expert report by Amplitude Consultants into underground HVDC alternatives commissioned by the Moorabool Council and released in June this year, contains concept designs and detailed cost break downs for three feasible and technically superior, alternate underground HVDC options for the WVTNP. Coincidentally Amplitude’s detailed cost breakdowns indicate these HVDC options would much less than the 16 times that AusNet claim for underground HVAC.
  • The Marinus Link from Hazelwood across Bass Strait to Tasmania is being designed as an underground HVDC cable for the 90 km in Gippsland – the commercial business case says it is more economically viable, more efficient, and more beneficial to them to go underground; particularly so when they factored in the climate change risks to overhead infrastructure.
  • Similarly, the Star of the South offshore windfarm project involves hundreds of turbines over about 500 square km of ocean off Gippsland. It is proposing to transmit HVAC underground from the beach to Hazelwood for over 75 km – “because of the greater benefit they see to the community, landscape and the environment.” And, rather than carving the shortest straight line through valuable countryside as AusNet are proposing, they are planning to share the existing overhead Basslink easement for half the route.

Underground options are more expensive to build than overhead, but over the 40-year life of the system they present far less impact and risk than AusNet’s overhead option, by maximising the use of existing easements and rights of way, by avoiding sensitive areas and by vastly reducing the system’s vulnerability to extreme weather events and bushfire.

Crucially, underground power transmission does not add extra risk to bushfire prone areas.

What seems to be underpinning AusNet’s ongoing misinformation campaign is that the current design and route is not the best option. AusNet have been contracted to deliver the current overhead option because of a flawed RIT-T decision in 2019, but Daniel Westermann, CEO AEMO, who owns the contract, does not seem to be listening to the evidence and technical arguments which show this.

Together, as a community, we need to appeal to Lily D’Ambrosio to direct AEMO to stop the current WVTNP and to re-consider other alternatives with less impact and risk, which make best use of existing easements and rights of way and put the power underground. To all the community, I say, please join the MCHPA and add your support to convince Lily to Stop AusNet’s Towers!

Membership, Fundraising and Volunteers

Membership, Fundraising and Volunteers

If you have not yet become a member of the Stop AusNet Towers campaign, please sign up on our member’s page.

We rely on the generosity of many volunteers to keep the fight going however we also require expert legal, technical and campaign professionals to provide guidance and direction. In order to continue this support, your donations are always welcome, please see our donations page.

If you would like to volunteer, we are looking for someone to assist in coordinating our fundraising efforts, if you are a good organizer and communicator and feel you have a few hours a week to assist please get in touch with us at info@stopausnetstowers.com.au

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ABOUT US

Stop AusNet’s Towers is demanding better consultation and a genuine process to consider alternatives.

The Moorabool Central Highlands Power Alliance comprises landowners, residents and community group concerned about the impacts of this project on our lives, land, environment, community and future generations

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