Almost as soon as tensions had eased along one portion of the proposed HumeLink 500kV powerline corridor, they bubbled over in another area.
A community meeting held at the Lacmalac Hall last Sunday morning heard phrases such as “don’t sign anything” bandied about, with accusations against the powerline company – TransGrid – flying thick and fast.
Issuing most of these declarations was Bill Kingwill, Co-Chair of the HumeLink Action Group, but the cries were readily picked up by close to 30 others in the room.
Mr Kingwill urged community members to band together after the release of the latest proposed powerline route. He’s not pleased, despite the company compromising with landholders to shift the ‘East Tumut’ line even further to the east, avoiding some properties in the Gilmore and Bombowlee areas.
The Adjungbilly farmer explained that he’s currently trying to develop a wind farm and he wants the line to be moved even further to the east, where it would impact an even smaller number of landowners.
He was signing people up to joining the official association on Sunday.
“As a group, we can handle TransGrid. One on one is how they want to deal with us now, individually,” he said, saying he was totally disappointed in the new route maps which were released last week.
“They haven’t been listening to us,” he said.
“It’s not where we had talked with TransGrid and came to an agreement. They were going on our alternative, which was ‘2f’ and that was basically out on the 02 powerline, which goes out to the east through Bondo. It doesn’t affect these people [at the meeting]. It would come along the eastern side of Blowering and keep on going out.”
Mr Kingwill said the preferred ‘2f’ route would only affect ‘half a dozen’ landholders. He insisted the company chose their current line – which runs almost directly over the Lacmalac Hall – because it was the cheapest option.
“TransGrid does not care about us. We’re only a thorn in their side,” he said.
“All they want to do is build a line at the cheapest per kilometre.”
Jenny Oliver is the Lacmalac Public Hall Land Manager. She said she hoped the line wouldn’t go over the historic building, but she hadn’t yet heard much about the impacts of the new route. She was measured in her response.
“This wasn’t going to affect us, this change is what’s going to affect us,” she said.
Mrs Oliver expected she’d be able to see the 500kV line from her nearby home, since she can currently see the 330kV line which runs along the same route. She wasn’t deeply concerned.
“You get so used to it, you don’t even see it in the end,” she said.
“This is going to be huge, but it’s progress, I guess. You’ve got to go with it. We certainly want it somewhere that won’t affect us, but it’s got to go somewhere.
“I just don’t want it to impact too many people in the district … if only they could just send it [east] a bit more.”
She said she has other friends in Wondalga who are relieved they won’t be directly impacted anymore and overall was ‘in two minds’ about the project.
“I’d rather not have it, but you’ve got to keep in mind that it’s got to go somewhere. It’s progress. If we want extra power, which we need, it’s got to go somewhere, but it’s not that much further to go [east].”
Local tourism operator David Sheldon was also in attendance. He owns ‘Elm Cottage’, which comprises 62 acres along the Goobarragandra River, with a homestead and five self-catered cottages.
“We are impacted because we run a tourism accommodation facility,” he said, “It doesn’t matter what anyone says, the public opinion about these high voltage power lines is not good.”
Mr Sheldon referenced neighbours who used to own the nearby ‘Elm Grove’, who found it difficult to sell their property due to the already-existing power lines in the area.
“The high voltage lines go across [their property] and they had a lot of prospective buyers that looked at it that said, ‘Why am I going to build near or underneath a powerline?’”
Elm Cottage is currently for sale. Mr Sheldon said he also preferred a line which travels further towards the east.
“It’s the most preferred and the most logical, because it’ll impact less landholders,” he said.
“I found out inside [at the meeting] that it’s all about cost … where does the community get involved? When do we listen to the community?”
TransGrid is still in the planning and development stage.
The company is taking note of recent unrest along the proposed ‘East Tumut’ 500kV line, which would run along the current 330kV corridor, east of Gilmore and across the north of Blowering Dam.
After hearing feedback from a community meeting held in Lacmalac last Sunday, a company spokesperson said they would “continue to engage with landowners and the community on this important project which will unlock the supply of electricity from Snowy 2.0.”
“We have recently outlined a new route option for HumeLink and this was identified after extensive local consultation and technical investigation,” said the spokesperson.
“We’ve determined that it’s possible to run the line from Maragle and to build over the top of Blowering Reservoir.”
The company is still looking at different route options in the area and committed to “propose new transmission on public land, or in parallel to existing infrastructure.”
The consultation period will continue as TransGrid prepares the Environmental Impact Statement and into the construction phase.
“ We will continue to meet with landowners and discuss ways we can consider route options that minimise disruption to them, to their properties and their farm businesses,” said the spokesperson.
Construction isn’t expected to begin until at least mid-2024.