A burst hose from a farm water tanker showered AusNet representatives and their vehicle last Friday, after being denied access to a property in Bunding by landowners.
Over 30 vehicles and 50 people attended Gerald Conroy’s property on Stonehut Lane, supporting the ‘Stop AusNet’s Towers’ campaign at 8.30am, after being advised the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project (WVTNP) people would be requiring access.
Mr Conroy received a text message advising they were “running late….and can’t make 8.30 as planned. Will contact you later this morning when we firm up a time”. They then arrived four hours later.
Mr Conroy had locked his gates and positioned farm machinery to deny access after being told “AusNet contractors and 12 security guards” will attempt to force access to the property.
“The same thugs that rocked my 75-year-old cousin off his gate last week,” Mr Conroy told a representative on the roadside.
Jamahl Waddington is the WVTNP Landowner Liaison and was not aware of the incident.
The proposed route is set to navigate its way through over 60km of prime rural and agricultural farmland within the Moorabool Shire. The total route is 190km with 85 metre towers of 500Kv high voltage overhead transmission lines.
Mr Waddington was at odds as to why they were denied access on the day.
“The ecology is still an important part of the thing, and I am happy to sit down and debate the project with you,” he said.
“Today though, I am not here debating, I am here to tell you this project is not going to have a massive impact on you and your property. Our job is to determine if this thing is feasible or not.”
Mr Conroy said all they are doing is “trying to wear us down”.
“Your job,” he told Mr Waddington, “is a land access agent and to break us, to get your people in here to do it, and you may deny that, but that is how we feel. You’re breaking us down and for two years wee have not slept,” he said.
Roger Lowery is also an effected landowner and said once the EES gets through there is only 30-days to review it. “It is a done deal. You have a contract to deliver a project, that’s all you care about,” he said.
“I’ve told you once and I will tell you again, a private company is not putting an eyesore infrastructure that is going to destroy our community and our environment, that will only deliver power to Melbourne, and not charge them anything for it, at our cost. That is what you are doing, destroying our lives and just ticking a box,” Mr Lowery told Mr Waddington.
“You say you are allowed on our properties, we don’t. That Act was made for the SEC 5O years ago, so if you’re entitled to come on our properties go and get a court order and we’ll fight it in court.”
Mr Waddington said landowner lawyers have looked at it and they are allowed to access under Section 93.
“I don’t live here so I don’t understand the day-to-day impacts.”
Mr Conroy said, “well if you read our numerous emails you will understand the impacts we face day-to-day”.
When asked by Mr Conroy to explain “to us how we are an important part of this project, Shay Middlemiss (WVTNP Landowner Engagement Team) said it is because this is your property as you said.
“We are here respectfully, and we want to work ·with you. We do have an obligation under the EES,” she said.
“We have considered the underground option and released an underground summary report, and it came out that the length of the project and the constructability, that overhead transmission line is the most suitable option, and that will be addressed in the Environmental Effect Statement.”
Mr Waddington then said they need to work out where the route is going to go.
“What information do you think we haven’t told you?” he asked.
Mr Lowery responded, “where the towers are going.”
Ms Middliemiss added, “the project is not approved for construction yet, we have a proposed route and that is why we don’t have our tower locations.”
“You have put hate and venom in our hearts which is not us,” Mr Lowery said.
“… and we hate that position you have put us in because we followed the process to consult, we put pins on maps, listened to your webinars, typed questions in and they get ignored. We then go to community consultation and get told absolutely nothing. The whole thing has been a sham all the way through. You are now dealing with a community that has been totally lied to.”
Loretta Conroy had the final say before the four WVTNP representatives left the roadside.
“Listen to the people that live on the land,” she said.
“You cannot do an ecological study in half an hour and if you want to do that study, buy a property and do it.”
The Moorabool News asked Mr Waddington and Ms Middlemiss, why do WVTNP say to underground the project would cost 15 times more, and Moorabool Shire Council spent thousands of dollars on an independent study that revealed the cost would only be seven times?
“We are not talking to the press,” he said.
Questions have been sent via email to WVTNP and we are yet to receive a response.
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