Was there any community consultation, or is this considered an ‘actionable’ route so the consultation didn’t happen?
The consultation process surrounding this project has been poor from the outset, to say the least. Community feedback has been provided to AusNet Services over the past 9 months via
- Online Q&A sessions
- A 32-page impact statement that I personally prepared
- Online mapping tools to identify areas of significance
- Thousands of letters of concern sent to AusNet Services, AEMO, the Victorian Government and Federal Governments. Replies to these letters have not been forthcoming and by all appearances, stakeholders fast-tracking this Project choose to bury their heads in the sand
- Community drop-in sessions hosted b y AusNet Services.
While it may appear community consultation was undertaken to some extent, all of the above has resulted in nothing. The broad area of interest was recently refined to a narrow corridor which still includes a State Significant Landscape and the area to the north of Darley including Coimadai and Merrimu. From the communities perspective, the consultation process was a ‘tick-the-box’ exercise with no intent to alter the proposed route. To quote Ausnet Services; Through alignment selection and design the Project seeks to avoid areas of significance. It seems they forgot their own mission statement!
For Social License to Operate, AusNet need to place decision-making in the hands of the community and implement what the community decides, not use 100-year-old infrastructure that fails to enhance and conserve the natural environment. Transmission towers have been ruining sunsets and vandalising landscape character for over 100 years. When more environmentally conscious alternatives exist, it is baffling as to why they are not being considered. To say there are no alternatives, which is what we have been hearing, demonstrates unwillingness to conserve, protect and enhance the environment.
The need for an effective and efficient transmission network to transfer green energy generated in the south-western Victoria to the State power grid is recognised and supported but it is fundamental the various impacts on environment and community be considered. The WVTNP and all future transmission projects should investigate underground transmission alternatives to ensure the environment is both protected and preserved.