Council responds to assessment report into VNI West

Published on 30 May 2023

Transmission lines

Details of the preferred option for the Victoria New South Wales Interconnector West (VNI West) project were outlined by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and Transgrid on the weekend. Hepburn Shire Council is pleased the terminal station is no longer proposed for Mount Prospect but still has serious concerns about the increase in size of transmission line towers and the abject lack of genuine consideration for undergrounding lines. 

“The community and Council have campaigned strongly against the location of the terminal station in our Shire, consequently we are very pleased to see it is no longer the preferred option,” said Mayor of Hepburn Shire, Cr Brian Hood. 

“At the same time, we feel for the communities who are now facing the unwelcome prospect of a terminal station and towers in their region. We sincerely hope AEMO and Transgrid will engage more closely with the community as the projects continue,” he said. 

Cr Hood said the biggest concerns for Hepburn Shire Council now are the significant towers and easements planned as part of the proposed Western Renewables Link (WRL) corridor, which forms part of VNI West. 

“This is a beautiful part of the world. There is strong visitation and economic activity through tourism and it is also some of the best agricultural land in Victoria. It is incredibly disappointing that undergrounding transmission lines has not been genuinely considered in either project given these towers will be up to 80 metres high and easements up to 100 metres wide,” said Cr Hood. 

“Farmers will face the unwelcome prospect of massive easements around transmission infrastructure on their property, thereby restricting agricultural activities in this incredibly productive land,” he said. 

“Given these challenges we question the rationale of maintaining the currently proposed alignment of WRL through Hepburn Shire now that the terminal station will be relocated. On that basis we will be continuing to advocate strongly for a change to the proposed route.” 

A Ministerial Order has been implemented to progress the preferred option, which connects VNI West from Dinawan Energy Hub in NSW, via a new terminal station near Kerang directly to the WRL at a new terminal station near Bulgana in Northern Grampians Shire (rather than at Mount Prospect in Hepburn Shire). 

“While Council is highly supportive of renewable energy there has been a missed opportunity for genuine consideration for placing powerlines underground in some of the more sensitive areas. The refusal to consider that option represents inappropriately short-term thinking,” said Cr Hood. 

“We encourage the community to continue to make their voices heard throughout this process, including the upcoming Environmental Impact Assessment process,” he said. 

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