On Tuesday March 8th over 500 community members including farmers, residents and landowners gathered on the steps of Victoria’s Parliament House, cheered along by a 1km long convoy of tractors, fire trucks, farm vehicles and a team of horses protesting the proposed Western Victorian Transmission Project.
The community along with local business leaders are demanding the State Government refuse to approve AusNet’s proposal for overhead high-voltage transmission lines linking Ararat to Melbourne’s West.
Stop AusNet’s Towers Chair Emma Muir was joined by Steve Curry, actor, comedian and star of Australia’s iconic movie The Castle, Chris Stephens Chair of the Ballarat Potato Growers Association, Beverley McArthur Member of the Victorian Legislative Council, Louise Staley Member for Ripon, Stuart Grimley Member of the Victorian Legislative Council and Tim Quilty Member of the Victorian Legislative Council.
Quotes attributed to Emma Muir from her speech on the steps of Parliament House:
“We are here for one reason and one reason only – to tell the people in the building behind me to Stop AusNet’s Towers.”
“AusNet will tell you transmission lines don’t cause bushfires. They should tell this to the families of the 18 people who died in the Camp Fire in California in 2018 – a fire started by faulty transmission lines. Tell that to the State of California, and all those who paid the bill for the Camp Fire – a staggering $16.6 billion US dollars.”
“This is the same AusNet whose power infrastructure was the cause of two of the deadliest bushfires on Black Saturday. The Kilmore East-Kinglake fire killed 119 people. The Murrindindi-Marysville fire, which killed 40 people. These fires devastated lives and communities. And we know that when the next big fire comes – and it will – we won’t be able to rely on the brave volunteers of the CFA in the way we have for generations.”
Captains of eight brigades have told the Premier they “we will not respond to fires on, above or around the proposed high voltage power lines”.
“This project will result in the loss of at least 155,000 mature trees and that is not green. A project that cuts a football field sized easement through protected landscapes, national parks and vital biodiversity links decimating everything is not green. A project that fails to acknowledge the risks posed by a changing climate is not green.”
Our communities support renewable energy. We more than most know how important it is to a sustainable future. But we ask that it be delivered in a way that doesn’t put the environment, lives and livelihoods at risk?
AusNet have made a mockery of their responsibility. Their consultation is a sham. Landowners have been physically assaulted, bullied and harassed by people acting for AusNet. AusNet have acted in a shameless, arrogant, and dismissive way.
But let’s not forget this is being done in the name of our State and Federal Government. The State Government should be ashamed that AusNet is acting in its name. Daniel Andrews, Richard Wynne and Lily D’Ambrosio need to act.
They need to send this project back to the drawing board so the alternative routes and methods of transmission can be properly evaluated – not rushed through the sham process undertaken for this project.
Minister D’Ambrosio has the legislative power to do this. She needs to use it. Minister Wynne needs to commit to full public consultation and an independent planning panel before considering any planning approvals – and stop relying on an EES process in which our communities have absolutely zero faith.
And the Premier and his Government need to listen to us before they rubber stamp a project that will destroy livelihoods … decimate Western Victoria … and put lives at risk.
There’s too much at stake. It’s time to Stop AusNet’s Towers.
The Victorian Stage Government are denying this is their project. A spokesperson for Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor says the Victorian Government is responsible for the planning, environmental and safety approvals for large infrastructure projects within Victoria – including the Western Victoria Transmission project.
Mrs Muir continued “We fully support renewables and recognise the need to connect renewable energy to Melbourne as part of overall efforts to combat climate change however to do so under the proposed project will;
- Introduce a massive avoidable new bushfire risk – we’re supposed to be reducing climate risks not increasing it
- Result in an avoidable and significant loss of habitat and critical environmental bio links that will be broken forever
- Have direct and significant impacts to the local agricultural industry and threaten the loss of the Ballarat potato industry, and farming enterprises right along the corridor
- Create a significant visual amenity loss which impact tourism, community amenity and wellbeing
“We want the project taken back to the drawing board to consider all technologies and all solutions on a triple bottom line basis where the whole of life costs and benefits are considered. We strongly support undergrounding using existing power line easements and public land and believe it is viable if the options are properly costed.”
“We want the Victorian Energy Minister to use her enormous powers under the National Electricity Vic Act (NEVA) to step in, have the project cancelled as we know it and run a new process that delivers a better solution.”
“Too many of our politicians, including the Ministers in charge of this project, have so far refused to come and meet us, so we’re taking our fight to them so we can deliver a simple message: Stop AusNet’s Towers – save our communities and farms,” Ms Muir said.