Bannister landholders have questioned what TransGrid has to hide following the company's abandonment of a larger meeting about their proposed transmission line.
Russell Erwin said he was disappointed that the meeting with people affected by the 630km 'HumeLink' line's potential route didn't go ahead as he originally envisioned. It was to be held at the Bannister hall on Thursday, April 29.
However Mr Erwin said following a Goulburn Post article two weeks ago, TransGrid became "nervous" it would turn into a public meeting and wanted exact attendance numbers.
"My response was that it is not just landowners impacted by the line but the whole district, so how do you define affected people," he said.
"But they wanted to limit the number of people and not deal with any anger. We think they used it as a device...It's petty and controlling and doesn't instill confidence that they have an even approach towards those affected."
Complicating matters is that TransGrid has not released a final route for the $2.1 billion 500 kilovolt transmission line. It will connect substations at Maragle, Wagga Wagga and Bannaby, harness energy from the Snowy Hydro scheme, windfarms and other renewable energy sources. The state and federal governments have identified it as a priority.
But landowners along the current loosely defined route are unhappy with consultation to date. Bannister's Resist Humelink group is one of several action organisations formed along the line.
Mr Erwin said instead of TransGrid meeting with a larger number of people in the village on Thursday night, he and two other group members were offered a discussion with former NSW Fair Trade Commissioner Rod Stowe, his deputy, Barbara El Gamal, and a company representative.
The company has engaged Mr Stowe to independently advocate on behalf of landowners and to "ensure best practice engagement" and that "everyone was treated fairly and with respect."
Thursday's discussion went ahead, albeit without Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman and Hume MP Angus Taylor's representatives, who had been invited.
Group members reiterated their concerns about the physical impact on properties, lifestyle affects, compensation, information flow and the level of consultation.
Mr Erwin said valuers had predicted a 30 per cent drop in land value as a result of the line's passage. However the "outdated" 1991 'Just Terms' legislation only compensated people for the easement. TransGrid wants to eventually reduce the easement to an 80 metre width.
"The general opinion is we will suffer a lot because who in their right mind would want to buy a property with two transmission lines going through it?" he said.
"We also believe this is old technology and that in 10 to 15 years the need for big transmission lines will diminish."
A 300kV line already passes through the area.
Mr Erwin said if people had known about the line earlier they could have argued for fairer compensation.
TransGrid has said the Just Terms legislation clearly defined what must be considered.
While Mr Erwin said while the group received a "a fair hearing" from Mr Stowe, their input could only be conveyed back to the company. Mr Stowe said TransGrid would be in touch with them.
While appreciative of the talks, Mr Erwin remained "flabbergasted" by the approach.
"What are they frightened of?" he asked.
"We took it that this would be a public meeting...I suspect they will do what they want, consult, but in the end it means squat all...We are collateral roadkill despite people devoting their entire lives to their properties."
A TranGrid spokeswoman said the proposed route, with a 200m easement would be released in June. This would be refined to an 80m easement by July, 2022.
She did not specifically answer why the company declined the public meeting but said Mr Stowe was engaged to help implement "the best possible landowner and community engagement practices on its major transmission projects."
"Rod Stowe and colleague Barbara El Gamal are working with TransGrid to ensure our engagement practices and processes meet the highest standards," she said in a statement.
"...They are advising TransGrid on best practice regarding engagement with landowners, to ensure processes are transparent and their voices are heard.
"The pair met with Bannister landowners last week, to address landowners issues and concerns, following a request received previously from the Bannister group for a meeting with them."
The company says it is engaging with landowners about HumeLink through COVID-safe face-to-face meetings, online interactive maps and community information sessions
The transmission line project is yet to gain final investment approval through the Australian Energy Market Regulator.