A western Victorian farmer has taken a plough to one of his most productive paddocks to send a message to the company behind a massive powerline project.
Myrniong farmer Peter Muir is one of several landholders protesting a project that would see nearly 200 kilometres of high-voltage powerline run through properties from Melton to a wind farm at Bulgana, north of Ararat.
The Muir family has worked their property near Ballarat for five generations, but fear they could be forced to sell the family farm if the project’s approved.
“I’m talking about my life and livelihood, and my children’s livelihoods,” Mr Muir said.
“It’ll completely ruin the farm; you can’t start and stop a farm. It’s pie in the sky crap.”
Victorian power project opposed
The Western Victorian Transmission Network Project first raised the ire of local communities in mid-June and was scheduled to continue its planning phase until mid-2022.
Ausnet, the company delivering the project, plans for construction to begin on the massive project in late 2022, with the projected completed by 2025.
Mr Muir said his farm would be rendered unusable if the project was approved.
“Three-quarters of the farm would be out of action, 570 our of our 800 acres gone,” Mr Muir said.
“All they can say is ‘put your animals in another paddock while it’s happening’ or de-stock, which you just can’t do.”
Mr Muir said his paddock-based message was the best way he could think of to get his frustrations across.
“I did it out of frustration, everything I did wasn’t getting any response,” he said.
“It’s not a last-ditch effort, but it’s an effort; we’ll do whatever we can to try and stop them.”
Ausnet says consultation underway
Ausnet said in a statement that it understood people in the area were concerned, and that it wanted to hear from affected residents directly.
Last month, the company held six online Q&A sessions where participants were able to talk directly with the project team.
“We’ve contacted many local landholders directly, including the Muir family, so that we can hear their point of view, and we encourage all landholders to talk to us directly about their concerns,” an Ausnet spokesperson said.
“We’re right at the start of this five-year project and we will be consulting with the community at every stage.”
Mr Muir’s wife, Emma, has raised concerns about the community’s ability to engage in online meetings.
“A lot of people out here have pretty poor internet so can’t get an online zoom call going,” Ms Muir said.
“We’ve requested that the project be put on hold until COVID-19’s finished so we can reassess and have proper community consultation, but they’ve told us no, it’s full steam ahead, because there’s timelines to meet.”
Ausnet said the project was needed to upgrade the existing transmission network so it could more efficiently share new renewable energy with all Victorians.
“Due to its local impacts, it will be the subject of extensive environmental and planning approvals by both the State and Federal governments, and these will also provide significant opportunity for local people to have their say,” the spokesperson said.
Myrniong legacy gone at risk
The Muir family has been farming at Myrniong since 1869.
Ms Muir said the project meant that legacy would have to end, and that she would not have anything to pass on to her children.
“If this all goes ahead, we won’t only lose our livelihood, it’s also our children’s future,” she said.
“We were hoping one of our kids might want to come back and farm and now we feel that won’t be an option.”
Ms Muir said she was proud of her husband’s message.
“This project has really thrown our lives into chaos, and he felt really frustrated and left out of the process,” she said.
“This was something he could do to show his dislike of the whole project.”
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