Merriwa-Cassilis Alliance: Upper Hunter by-election candidates address transmission line concerns at NSW Farmers forum in Scone

By-election candidates address Merriwa transmission line concerns

CANDIDATES for the Upper Hunter by-election are overwhelmingly in support of exploring alternative routes for a proposed transmission line corridor which would run through critical farmland on the Merriwa Plateau.

At Wednesday night's by-election forum hosted by NSW Farmers in Scone, the nine candidates that were in attendance were in agreeance - something that doesn't occur often - that the landholder's concerns should be taken seriously.

Part of the Central-West Orana Renewable Energy Zone project, TransGrid are planning to build two high voltage 500KV power lines, an electricity superhighway 180 kilometres long.

The concern for farmers is that the proposed route runs through productive agricultural land from Merriwa north west towards Cassilis and then south of Dunedoo towards Wellington.

Applying pressure ahead of a by-election has worked in Merriwa-Cassilis Alliance's favour - a group of representative concerned landholders - who this week had a productive meeting with Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Environment and Energy Matt Kean in Sydney.

Nationals candidate for Upper Hunter Dave Layzell said at the Scone forum he had arranged the meeting .

"We understand that infrastructure in this country is important but it's also important that we listen to the landholders and protect those landholder rights," he said.

"Knowing that this issue couldn't wait until after the by-election, I organised a meeting with the Merriwa-Cassilis Alliance down with the Minister and the Deputy Premier to hear their concerns and try to get this issue addressed."

The Alliance said it walked away from the meeting with a commitment from all involved to "go back to the drawing board and explore all corridor options available, including those on public land with a more in-depth analysis".

Mr Barilaro said he will be attending the next Merriwa-Cassilis Alliance meeting at the Merriwa RSL.

"We need to get this right and we need to include our agricultural land holders, families and local businesses in the discussion," he said.

Further details on the project and corridors to be explored will be confirmed at the first consultation workshop, which will also be attended by representatives from the NSW Government's Energy Corporation of NSW, the Alliance said.

By-election candidates also made the point that while they are pro renewables, renewable energy projects are not perfect everywhere.

"I fear that we are going to replace our coal industry down the line with a renewable industry that's just as damaging," independent Tracy Norman said.

"I think decentralising energy might be a better way to go and I would hate these transmission lines be just big boys toys again and not think about decentralizing these things and having hubs of energy, but I am very much for renewable energy."

Labor candidate Jeff Drayton added "the project should have never been recognised as critical infrastructure".

"Because effectively that means 'we're just going to come do it and tell you about it'. That shouldn't have been the process," he said.

One Nation's candidate Dale McNamara was blunt in his response: "Get some extra money to run them in areas where they should be run if they're going to run them which doesn't impact any farmer. The real truth behind it is it's cheaper to run them through the great alluvial soils and just again sell the farmer out."

This story By-election candidates address Merriwa transmission line concerns first appeared on Hunter Valley News.