Transmission Company Victoria (TCV) has finally released its draft corridor for the VNI West project, burying it within the news cycle and leaving affected landholders just days to prepare for planned consultation sessions.
Member for Mallee Anne Webster criticised TCV for releasing the report late on a Friday afternoon, just four days before planned community consultations in Charlton, St Arnaud, Boort, Stawell and Kerang begin from Tuesday.
“Timing the report’s release for late on a Friday afternoon is highly cynical, and smacks of an attempt to avoid media scrutiny via weekend editions of newspapers,” Dr Webster said. “It also leaves affected landholders with effectively the weekend to digest the information and what it means for them.”
The mostly 2km wide corridor heads north from Bulgana, east of Stawell, traversing to the west of St Arnaud and Charlton before heading to the North East through the Loddon Shire near Barraport past Oakvale and Dingwall before turning north to the Murray River past Kerang and Murrabit.
In an unexpected change, TCV had also widened the draft corridor from what was initially 1km “to provide greater flexibility and to ensure TCV identifies the best route with the least impact on communities”.
“Yet again TCV have failed to keep the community informed, a common theme over the past few months even since before TCV was created by the Australian Energy Market Operator to manage VNI West,” Dr Webster said. “The people of Mallee have made their thoughts on VNI West clear in protests and meetings right around the electorate and down at a protest in Melbourne, yet they push ahead and can’t seem to keep their word from one report to the next.”
The report admitted VNI West cannot proceed without environmental and planning approval from the State and Commonwealth Governments and comprehensive environmental assessments and stakeholder engagement over the next 12–18 months.
“One can only hope TCV will listen to the views of the people of Mallee during their delayed and inadequate ‘stakeholder engagement’,” Dr Webster said.
“Farmers’ livelihoods are at risk and many have told me they will not support it. This does not stop the Allan and Albanese Labor Governments from railroading through prime agricultural land and pristine bush land and will not delay their reckless renewables agenda”.