The NSW Farmers Bunnaloo branch is urging TransGrid to minimise the impact on prime agricultural land and communities like Moama in planning for the Victoria-New South Wales Interconnector (VNI West) project.
VNI West is a proposed new high-capacity 500 kilovolt (kV) double-circuit overhead transmission line, providing a connection between the Western Renewables Link in Victoria and a planned EnergyConnnect substation located between Coleambally and Jerilderie.
TransGrid and the Australian Energy Market Operator Victorian Planning (AVP) are heading up the project and are currently assessing its technical and economic viability. The route, design and location of any new infrastructure required to deliver VNI West has not been determined.
Its early days, but farmers on both sides of the Murray River are highlighting the need to protect prime agricultural land.
Bunnaloo branch chair and mixed farmer Richard Ham said members are alarmed about news that it could cross the Murray River between Moama and the Torrumbarry Wier.
“The project has been an issue for farmers and communities on the Victorian side for some time. When it comes to crossing the river into NSW, they were talking about doing around Kerang,” Richard said.
“Then I saw an article in The Weekly Times in March, which had an ominous looking map showing that the river crossing is likely to be down at Moama.”
“Moama is probably the most densely populated areas along the Murray that could be picked. It’s a popular boating area, and the river can be like George street in Sydney in summertime.”
Richard said both sides of the river also feature prime agricultural land with high yielding crops, dairies, and piggeries.
“There are many disadvantages for farmers to having these high voltage overhead powerlines going across their farms, not the least of which is the increased fire risk,”NSW Farmers Bunnaloo branch chair Richard Ham.
“I think the evidence is pretty clear that is generally debilitating for any area or community that have these big powerlines running through them.”
Putting prime Ag land first
Richard is representing the farming community in recently formed regional reference group and hosted of the region for TransGrid officials last week.
“It was a good opportunity to show them the features of the area and the importance of considering farming operations, which they were very receptive too.”
“The real issue for the farming community is the sacrificing of prime agriculture to benefit electricity consumers in the cities.”
Richard said he will be pushing the proponents to look at route options that cross the Murray river in less populated areas and the use of more public land.
“We think that undergrounding the transmission line should also be given serious consideration. If they can put a powerline under the sea from Victoria to Tasmania, surely it should be assessed as an option for this project.”
Richard said farmers in areas surrounding towns like Deniliquin and Jerilderie could also be impacted by the VNI West transmission line.
“As farmers, we need to know what weight has been put on social licence and prime agricultural land considerations in the business case for all the options that the proponents are looking at.”
“It seems they put a lot of weight on consumer benefit. There needs to be a better balance.”
The debate on putting more transmission lines underground is powering up. Read more here.