Three years after withdrawing a legal challenge to the NSW government’s decision to approve Snowy 2.0 because of the potential legal costs involved, the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) is now proceeding with an action in the Land and Environment Court.
The case against the previous NSW government’s decision to allow new overhead transmission lines through Kosciuszko National Park (KNP) as part of the Snowy 2.0 project is set to be heard today.
The NPA claims that last year the previous government amended the Plan of Management for KNP to exempt Snowy 2.0 from a planning requirement that any new transmission lines be located underground.
Its decision to undertake the current legal action was facilitated by the court’s earlier decision to grant a Protective Costs Order to limit NPA’s exposure to excessive legal costs.
“Our success in securing the order highlights the public interest in our legal action against the use of environmentally damaging overhead transmission lines in Kosciuszko National Park,” said NPA CEO, Gary Dunnett.
“It also reflects the public interest of this case and NPA’s high standing as a community-based conservation group with a long history in advocating for the protection of national parks in NSW.”
The proposed overhead transmission connection involves two sets of steel lattice towers up to 75 metres tall, located in a cleared easement of 120 to 140 metres wide and spanning more than eight kilometres of the park.
“They will be the first overhead transmission lines to be built in a NSW national park for nearly 50 years”, Mr Dunnett said.
“The overhead lines will clear more than 100 hectares of pristine national park, destroying valuable ecosystems and habitat. The powerlines will fragment intact habitats and compromise ecosystem integrity.”
The NPA, backed by engineering and environmental experts, has repeatedly called for the Snowy 2.0 transmission connection to be placed underground, most recently at the Upper House Inquiry into the feasibility of undergrounding transmission lines.
“The Kosciuszko Plan of Management stipulated that any new transmission must be underground, for good reason,” Mr Dunnett said.
“What possible justification could there be to exempt Snowy 2.0, other than save Snowy Hydro some costs.
The transmission lines should be underground, as is most of the Snowy 2.0 project.
“Despite the order limiting our exposure to the government’s legal costs, the reality is that taking legal action is extremely expensive and something NPA only does as an absolute last resort,” Mr Dunnett added.
“We hope that our supporters, those who believe national parks need to be safeguarded from reckless decisions by governments and developers, will assist in covering those legal costs which are expected to be up to $100,000.”
This article appeared in the Corryong Courier, 3 August 2023.