March 14th, 2022Rallies to Stop AusNet
TRACTORS rumbled through Melbourne last Tuesday, March 8, as hundreds gathered to protest at Parliament House against 85-metre high towers planned to cross valuable farmland and destroy pristine vistas in Hepburn Shire and beyond.
AusNet’s proposed Western Victoria Transmission Network Project (WVTNP). will run 190 kilometres from Bulgana, north of Ararat, to Melbourne.
Actor Stephen Curry, who was the face of the protest, which included farmers, residents and landowners cheered along by a 1km-long convoy of tractors, fire trucks, farm vehicles and a team of horses, said his home in Gordon was in the corridor of the project.
Mr Curry told reporters that AusNet and the state government would knock down his property, including the house and 3000 native trees.
“And that’s all in the name of sustainability, which is rubbish — it’s all in the name of saving money.”
Meanwhile, earlier on March 6, about 200 concerned members from Kingston and surrounding districts gathered at the local showgrounds, pictured above, in support of the Stop AusNet’s Towers campaign.
Numerous speakers addressed the many aspects of both the proposal and its ongoing effects including federal Labor MP Catherine King, State Liberal MP Louise Staley, Daylesford Macedon Tourism CEO Steve Wroe and Hepburn Shire Council Mayor Cr Tim Drylie.
Kain Richardson, a fifth generation farmer and chair of the Kingston and District Power Alliance, organisers of the session, was heartened by the turnout.
“We are really grateful for the community support and not just the farming community but the lifestylers, hobby farmers and retirees that have shifted to the area for the visual amenity and relaxation.
“We were also quite impressed with the tourism industry interest and Steve Wroe coming out to speak. We need every bit of that support, as they are an essential industry for the district.”
The meeting offered the chance to inform and assist all those attendees who wanted to contribute to the ongoing struggle through activities such as publicity, campaign contributions, letter writing and preparing all important responses to AusNet’s environmental effects statement.
“The paper was going to be released in June,” says Mr Richardson, “but AusNet have asked for an extension to January 2023 after the Victorian state election. The KDPA will continue working with Hepburn Shire Council to get more sessions up and running where people can get the information required to make effective responses to the EES and get the whole thing sent back to the drawing board.”
By pushing the release of the EES back to January it certainly gives the KDPA and other activist groups under the umbrella of the Moorabool and Central Highlands Power Alliance (MCHPA) more time to gain additional support.
“We need to make sure we get the settings right for the Western Victoria Transmission Network Project because every other region in the state is going to be impacted by the further nine transmission projects that are coming,” Mr Richardson said.
“We believe some serious thought ought to be put into the social and economic impacts and all alternatives should be explored (specifically, underground options). Premier Daniel Andrews is trying not to let this become an election problem but this community will fight tooth and nail to make sure he knows about it.”
Words & Kingston image: Tony Sawrey Melbourne image: Nathan Lidgett