The region will become home to a “spider web of transmission lines” unless more is done to change wind farm planning laws, south-west leaders fear.
The power lines, which can measure up to 27 metres high and about 1.5 metres wide, are already in place to connect the Salt Creek wind farm, north of Mortlake, with the grid at Terang.
With more wind farms on the way, councils and landholders fear duplication of these lines will create a blight on the landscape. Under current laws, the transmission lines do not need a planning permit. There are also no requirements that wind farm companies share lines or consult with communities.
Moyne Shire is seeking urgent support from the Municipal Association of Victoria, the National Wind Farm Commissioner and the Clean Energy Council for an overhaul of Victoria’s regulatory and planning framework. It is also contacting the Planning Minister to call for immediate changes.
Councillor Jill Parker said it was important the shire also notify and seek support from other councils facing similar situations.
“We’ve got or are going to have a spider web of transmission lines traversing our shire with very little consideration about duplication, very little consideration about where they might go or where towns might be encircled by transmission lines,” she said.
“In Melbourne all power lines now have to be underground, we heard all of the reasons why they couldn’t put them underground for the distances they’re travelling. What amazes me is the distance they are travelling with these lines, they are not taking the most direct route to the grid, they seem to be going in various directions to the get to the grid, I suspect by the cheapest route.
“If we don’t stand up now and voice our concerns and warn other councils about the things that could happen in their municipalities as well then we will end up with a spider web of transmission lines across rural Victoria, without getting much of a benefit from them.”
Cr Colin Ryan said permits for transmission lines should go hand-in-hand with wind farm permits and councils should have input on decisions.
We will end up with a spider web of transmission lines across rural Victoria.Cr Jill Parker
Cr Ryan said an Upper House inquiry in 2009 into the wind farm approvals process found the main issue in the south-west region was connection to the grid. It put forward recommendations for government to take a more active approach around grid connections.
“That was 2009, we’re now in 2018 and it appears that both governments have gone the direct opposite way to make it easier for wind farms,” he said.
“The situation where we find ourselves today, the blame lies squarely at the feet of state governments, both sides of the house.”
Cr Ryan said the Salt Creek wind farm had 267 poles, with transmission lines from the Mortlake South project likely to run within 20 metres of it.
“The people of Mortlake, The Sisters and Terang had no say at all in this monstrosity traversing their roads,” he said.
“Now we’ve got another power station at Mortlake South that looks like going down alongside it, what a joke.”
Cr Jordan Lockett said the current process was concerning.
“One of the planning points that really frustrates me is if I wanted to put a little verandah on my back shed, I would have to put a planning application in… but for a multi-million dollar project to put up transmission lines for 50-something kilometres with no planning permit – it’s absolute madness,” he said.
Cr Jim Doukas said he supported the council’s stance, but said if wind farms were approved the lines had to go somewhere.
“You’ll only stop it if there’s no wind farm, otherwise it’s got to get a grid connection,” he said. “We can’t just say we don’t like it, it’s got to go somewhere.”
Corangamite Shire chief executive officer Andrew Mason said the council had been working with neighbouring councils on the issue.
“Obviously the Salt Creek Wind Farm and the power lines that go through to the Terang substation have been of great concern to councillors and the community. We have again been corresponding with the state government, particularly the Planning Minister, to argue the case that there needs be controls and an ability for councils to have input into where these power lines go.”