March 29th, 2023Two years on the message remains clear
IT MUST be one of the region’s most recognisable landmarks. “PISS OFF
AUSNET” was mowed in huge letters into a hill two years ago this Easter.
The reason behind the straightforward message at Mt Prospect was simple.
The community did not want to have huge electricity towers planted across pristine
views and valuable farming land. Nor did they want a giant terminal station.
And, as it turns out pretty much no-one else does either.
Support has come from many places including the young woman, Joee Aganetti-
Fraser, above, who mowed the message, being inducted this year onto the Hepburn
Shire Council’s Heather Mutimer Honour Roll.
In taking on the David and Goliath battle, the 19-year-old has been thrust into
the spotlight many times but takes it all in her stride. “It’s a slow process and a long
one but we will get there and we won’t stop fighting until it is where it should be.”
Joee, and many others, believe that the lines should be placed underground along
the Western Highway. It is not a “not in my backyard” battle for the community, it is
a “not in anyone’s backyard” message.
Joee said the induction onto the Honour Roll had been overwhelming but there
had been amazing support from all corners. “I was the only young one that got
through so that was quite an achievement.”
The farmer said she had the idea for the Piss Off AusNet sign after attending a
meeting against the powerlines and realising most of the farmers were not ready to
take a public stand.
“I thought the farmers needed to be heard so I took it upon myself and mowed
that into the hill. It was Easter so it was really busy and it was great to get the word
out and get people starting to talk.”
Joee said she mowed while being given directions from a two-way radio in a ute a
few kilometres away. “It took about six hours and now we just maintain it and keep it
up to scratch.”
As for the fight, Joee is quietly confident and, as she said, will not stop fighting.
“I am pretty confident with what is happening so far with the progress but it is a
right and a constant stress. There was a meeting with AusNet on Tuesday (March 21)
and that was pretty appalling but typical in that they don’t want to hear our concerns.
“It will be a long, slow process but we will get there. But with the constant stress
it is getting to the point where people are getting fed up. Right from the very start we
should have been consulted properly, each and every landholder in the district that
was going to be affected.
“But no-one really did that. AusNet is only bullying people and we have elderly
people here, both in nursing homes and still on farms, and at their age they just do
not need that worry.
“If AusNet is listening I would tell them to piss off and that it should be on the
Western Highway and underground so it doesn’t affect anyone. There is no point just
moving the terminal station 20km away from us and still say we will give you $80,000
just to walk on your property. If they have the money to do that, they have the money
to put it where it should be.”
An AusNet spokesperson told The Local that AusNet Services was working closely
and constructively with communities along the route “to ensure the proposed Western
Renewables Link is fully investigated for the strict Environment Effects Statement
which will be submitted later this year – the project will then be assessed by an
independent government panel”.
“The WRL project team have acted appropriately and legally at all times. AusNet
Services this week took a significant step towards negotiating compensation with
landholders who will host transmission lines for the WRL. Landholders were sent
guidelines to outline the process for AusNet acquiring an easement on their property
for the construction and operation of the transmission line.”
Meanwhile, Hepburn Shire Council is urging the community to make
submissions on the latest consultation report into the Victoria to New South
Wales Interconnector West project before the April 5 deadline.
The council has welcomed some aspects and expressed serious concern about other
conclusions outlined in the Australian Energy Market Operator and Transgrid report.
“Council will make a strong submission to AEMO and Transgrid regarding the
latest update,” Mayor Cr Brian Hood said.
“We know there is high community interest in this project and we encourage
people to take a close look at the report and make a submission. While Mount
Prospect is no longer the preferred option for a terminal station, it remains an option.
We also note that the proposed route of the Western Renewables Link transmission
line through Hepburn Shire remains largely unchanged and is highly problematic.”
A major concern for the council is the recommendation to increase the capacity
of the proposed power lines from 220kV (kilovolt) to 500kV along the section of the
Western Renewables Link west. From Mount Prospect to Bulgana, the height range of
the proposed towers will be increased from 40-60 metres high to 60–80 metres high.
The easement under them will increase from 40-60 metres wide to 70–100 metres
wide. “We are very disappointed that the undergrounding of power lines has not been
considered,” Cr Hood said.
Words: Donna Kelly | Image: Kyle Barnes