Scores of concerned farmers descended on Canberra on Tuesday, urging Federal Labor to rethink its plan to build hundreds of kilometres of poles and wires through regional Victoria.
The farmers invited by Member for Mallee, Dr. Anne Webster, met with the Nationals leader David Littleproud, shadow ministers and senators, with Dr. Webster saying Mallee communities were being railroaded into accepting the $3.3 billion Victoria to New South Wales Interconnector West (“VNI West”) project.
“I am deeply concerned for the region and fear Labor is railroading the community over thousands of kilometres of prime farmland and irrigation districts for a project that will have an enormous cost blow-out and detrimental consequences,” Dr. Webster said.
“That’s why I invited these farmers from my Mallee electorate to come to Canberra today so they could be seen and heard.
“The Nationals firmly believe Labor is making a huge mistake, which is how eminent professors Bruce Mountain and Simon Bartlett described it. I urge Labor to reconsider. These transmission lines will be devastating for regional Victoria, farmers and their communities.”
“Labor’s reckless race to 82 per cent renewables by 2030 means 28,000 kilometres of transmission lines will rip up native vegetation and prime agricultural land,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Labor can’t confirm how much land will be required, how much it will cost and who will be affected.
“Common sense needs to prevail. We’ve got sovereignty of all our resources. We don’t need to strip away prime agricultural land and knock down native bushland in the process. The decision to rewire the nation and fast-track the project has been done with little consultation. Farmers in the region are understandably outraged.
“The Nationals believe a Senate enquiry into the transmission lines the Labor Government intends to build is essential, to make sure that renewable projects have the social licence they need to operate in rural communities and that all alternatives are explored.”
Glengower farmer Glenden Watts said in Canberra on Tuesday that farmers like him in central Victoria were not opposed to renewables.
“In fact, farmers are leading the uptake of new technologies to better protect the environment and improve the productivity of our farming land, the food bowl of our nation,” he said.
“It’s the deceit, lies and plain disregard of their concerns that has the locals outraged.” Gre Gre South farmer Bill Baldwin said the changes to the area would be felt by the entire community.
“I am planning on spending the rest of my life farming and living off the land,” he said.
“If the community that we live in is destroyed by this infrastructure, it will have life changing impacts on our ability to grow food and clothe the world.”
This article appeared in The Buloke Times, 16 June 2023.