Russell Erwin has created his own piece of paradise on his Bannister district property.
The poet, who draws inspiration from nature, is surrounded by hundreds of trees planted with Greening Australia on the 158-hectare holding, 23km south of Crookwell.
But now he fears large swathes will be cleared if a 630km, 500 kilovolt electricity transmission line goes through his property.
"Personally, that's very distressing," he told The Post.
Mr Erwin and more than 20 of the area's landowners are challenging Transgrid's plans for the line, dubbed HumeLink. It would run from Maragle, 21km southeast of Tumbarumba, to Wagga Wagga and over to Bannaby substation near Taralga, via the Crookwell district.
The company says the line will reinforce the State's electricity network by allowing new energy sources to come online, including renewables. Further, it would "unlock the full capacity of the expanded Snowy Hydro Scheme and enable greater energy sharing between the states."
It aims to transfer high volumes of energy and improve access to affordable electricity.
Transgrid is yet to prove its market benefits to the Australian Energy Regulator, firm up a route and gain planning approval.
But draft maps have sparked resident reaction. Their group, 'Resist HumeLink,' has held talks with Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman about the need for more detail.
Mr Erwin said Transgrid had only notified owners, hadn't consulted meaningfully with the community and was using coronavirus as an excuse.
"At the moment we're totally in the dark. We don't know what they're doing, where it will go, only that it could start in 2022," he said.
"There is no point in me continuing any environmental work if bulldozers are going to come through and chop it up. Others are affected too."
Mr Erwin, who has lived on his property since 1982, feared the project would have a "significant" impact on property values and, coupled with the 330KV transmission line already running through the area, add to electromagnetic radiation.
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The area is "circled with wind farms." Mr Erwin rejected the NIMBY argument and said the wider energy debate had to be considered.
"(There are questions) about the viability of the Snowy 2 scheme," he said.
"From reading about it, it is possibly a white elephant and an exercise in gratifying politicians' egos...We are yet to receive justification from Transgrid and the whole question is whether renewables and long-life battery can mitigate the need for such a big scheme."
Mr Erwin argued existing towers should be upgraded instead.
The big picture
In a September, 2019 submission on the project, Energy Australia stated there was "significant uncertainty" around the timing of Snowy 2.0's completion date" and to some extent whether the project (would) progress.
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"A project of this size creates additional challenges around crowding out other generation investment at a time when there is increasing focus to replace retiring generation capacity," the letter stated.
Another Bannister resident, Dimity Taylor, said it was essential locals had input into the route. Although the line won't cross her property, she maintains consultation will go a long way to reducing people's stress.
"I (also) don't think tangible community benefits have been explored. It could be in the form of funds for hosting the line or money going into projects," she said.
A Transgrid spokeswoman said the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and the federal and state governments had identified HumeLink as "a priority project."
The company must convince the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) that it will maximise a "net benefit" to consumers before investment approval is granted.
"Based on AER approval, TransGrid decides whether to invest in the transmission line," the spokeswoman said.
Route selection involved detailed assessment of impacts including vegetation clearing, which the company hoped to minimise.
"The corridor width is generally less than 100 metres," the spokeswoman said.
"A regulated process exists for environmental offsets related to clearing. Landholders are compensated where easements cross their land."
If the project is approved, the route will be finalised when detailed design is completed in early 2022.- Transgrid spokeswoman
Transgrid met with Upper Lachlan Shire Council last October, the same month it said community consultation started. Talks will continue for another year.
"Respect for community health means that we have not been able to engage with people face to face and when it is safe to do that we will recommence the community engagement process," the spokeswoman said.
"During COVID, we have communicated with landowners using direct mail, emails, online meetings and an interactive property mapping system. Landowners are also able to contact TransGrid via a dedicated phone number: 1800 317 367 or email@example.com"
She said the company was compiling a list of landowners who wanted one-on-one meetings.
Transgrid hopes to lodge a planning application and scoping report to the state government this year, and an EIS in mid to late 2021.
"If the project is approved, the route will be finalised when detailed design is completed in early 2022," the spokeswoman said.
"If planning and investment approvals are received early in 2022, construction could start in mid-2022 and HumeLink would be commissioned in 2025."
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