Powerline project in council sights

A proposed route of the TransGrid Humelink project.

Snowy Valleys Council wants to get more information about a proposal to run 500kV powerlines through the region, with TransGrid to be asked to front the council as a matter of urgency.

The proposed HumeLink project would connect a substation at Maragle with Wagga and the metropolitan grid, forming a triangle of power lines through the Snowy Valleys. It has not yet been approved by the Australian Energy Regulator.

One route on the table would pass through rural areas such as Gilmore, Yaven Creek and Bombowlee, and run close to towns such as Batlow and Tumut. Deputy Mayor John Larter wants TransGrid to explain the impact on local communities.

“A number of residents have approached me about this HumeLink project, this 500kV power line that’s going to be running apparently through numerous properties,” Cr Larter told the council on Thursday, July 16.

“The thing that concerns me in addition to their concerns is it’s also supposed to go … adjacent to our airport, which we’re obviously advocating for significant upgrades for with regards to emergency services.

“To be placing a line of such magnitude in the vicinity of what will be a potentially major regional airport appears to be at odds with our council instructions.”

Tumut Aerodrome Improvements are listed as one of 14 priority projects on SVC’s advocacy plan. The overall project budget is listed as $12.5m to “increase the capacity of the Aerodrome for fire-fighting operations as well as providing the option for Air Ambulance flights.”

Mr Larter argued that the specifics of the HumeLink project have been “kept off the radar on purpose.”

“The companies involved are obviously wanting to slip this infrastructure in with as little fanfare as possible, but rest assured, that’s not going to be the case now,” he said.

Snowy Valleys Council Mayor James Hayes said that TransGrid had met with members of the council in early March, however specifics were not discussed.

“They did meet with us in early March but they didn’t give us any indication apart from just a broad idea that the power was coming out from Maragle, and sort of spanning out from there,” Cr Hayes said.

SVC CEO Matt Hyde also reiterated that the council has met with TransGrid, but it was of a “general nature.”

“The indication at the time was that there would be general consultation from TransGrid with landholders in the area,” Mr Hyde said. “They would then form their proposal from there and put that down in writing, and lodge for the approvals of which there would be community consultation in that process.”

Mr Hyde suggested that the council invites TransGrid to present any “firming up of the options for the geographic locations of those lines.”

Cr Hayes agreed, saying that “we need the routes and we need the options as well because we haven’t really seen that properly.”

Cr Larter said he wants someone of significance from TransGrid to discuss the project with council, such as a Chief Executive, rather than a PR “spin doctor”.

“I’m not gonna be sitting down to have some … person from marketing give us an overview of, you know, how good this is gonna be,” he said.

Mr Hyde suggested that in the Mayor’s letter to TransGrid requesting the meeting, various community groups and relevant authorities are included, so they are aware of what is happening. Suggested groups included the Civil Aviation Authority, NSW Farmers and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack’s aviation adviser, so things could “kick start … from the top down”, suggested by Mr Larter.

Mr Hyde also wanted to make it clear that any community consultation surrounding the HumeLink project is the responsibility of TransGrid, not the Snowy Valleys Council.

“We may wish to invite and advise TransGrid of some other partners that have significant operations in our community to that presentation, but we maintain it’s very clear that TransGrid are responsible for the consultation with the community and the decision around that,” Mr Hyde said.

“We are facilitating a communication of information out to the community.”

The motion was adopted as a matter of urgency. It reads: “That Council: Write to TransGrid and as a matter of urgency request that they present to Council on the options for the geographic location and further advice on the consultation process with the Snowy Valleys Community.”

During discussions about the project, Councillor Bruce Wright suggested that there might be a better word to use than “consultation.”

“We won’t get agreement, but we should have something better than just lip service for our concerns,” he said.