Over 170 landowners packed the St Arnaud Town Hall for a community forum hosted by the VFF in response to the VNI West project.
The forum was supported by the Northern Grampians Shire Council with Mayor Cr Kevin Erwin moderating the discussion. CEO of VicGrid Alistair Parker and VFF General Manager Policy and Advocacy Charles Everist provided presentations and took questions from attendees. VFF Horticulture Vice President Katherine Myers also presented on the impact of the existing Western Renewables Link project on her farm and community, and warned landowners of the problems caused by proposed developments.
The VFF echoed the anger of local farmers who have been blindsighted by the Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) changes to the proposed VNI West project which would see a 500kv double-circuit transmission line constructed from Bulgana to the Murray River via St Arnaud and Boort.
Farmers received an update on the work VFF has been doing to advocate to government for state-wide planning for transmission projects since 2018, including better understanding of the costs to farm production and the innadequacy of existing land access and compensation arrangements where farmers’ rights are not being protected.
The VFF reiterated its support for alternative technologies such as underground powerlines along transport corridors to be investigated and that communities should not accept being told by government that this is not feasible.
The VFF also expressed concerns at the complete inadequacy of AEMO’s consultation process which many farmers found to be offensive, provided no useful information and had no regard for the project’s impact on their farmland and their rights.
All community members were encouraged to have their say on AEMO’s consultation by Wednesday 5 April, with the VFF providing a submission template to help farmers in this process.
Further information about the VNI West project, including the submission template can be found here.