Government move to not include council in Powerline Replacement Fund sparks anger

SAFETY ISSUE: A government move to not include the Northern Grampians Shire Council in the latest round of the Powerline Replacement Fund has sparked anger. Picture: Peter Pickering

SAFETY ISSUE: A government move to not include the Northern Grampians Shire Council in the latest round of the Powerline Replacement Fund has sparked anger. Picture: Peter Pickering

Lowan MP Emma Kealy has slammed the state government for failing to include the Northern Grampians Shire Council in the Powerline Replacement Fund Program.

The program provides financial support to assist with replacement of dangerous private overhead powerlines with underground or insulated overhead powerlines or new conductor technologies in high fire risk areas.

But Northern Grampians Shire Council is not eligible to apply for funding.

“The Grampians is a known high bushfire risk area and has experienced a number of significant bushfire events in recent years. Halls Gap itself is full of overhead power lines”, Ms Kealy said.

“This is a simple case of the Minister acknowledging that she got it wrong and intervening to ensure land owners in Halls Gap and the broader Northern Grampians Shire Council area are eligible to apply for funding.”

Northern Grampians Shire Cr Jason Hosemans said the council would be open to working with the state government if sections of the shire were included in the latest round of funding. 

​"Halls Gap, in particular, would stand to benefit from being included as part of this program, not only from a public safety point of view, but also from an aesthetic perspective,” he said. 

"As a major Victorian tourist hub, we want to be able to offer the utmost levels of safety to local residents and visitors alike."

Resident Paul Turner said the Halls Gap community identified the project to put all powerlines underground as a high priority since devastating bush fires ripped through the area in 2005.

Overhead powerlines at the Halls Gap town centre.

Overhead powerlines at the Halls Gap town centre.

He was forced to stay locked in his house for five days because of a nearby bush fire in that same year. 

The concerned resident said the council not being able to apply for funding to put powerlines underground was a safety issue.

“When I was locked in my house I had generators, but many people don’t so they would have struggled,” Mr Turner said. 

“Anyone in Halls Gap will tell you they want powerlines to go underground between Delleys Bridge and Tandara Road.”

Mr Turner also said the popular tourist town could benefit aesthetically if powerlines were put underground.

“The government talks about how many visitors come to Halls Gap and how much it benefits the local economy, well make the town even greater and more aesthetically pleasing,” he said. 

Ms Kealy wrote to Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio requesting the immediate inclusion of Northern Grampians Shire Council in the Powerline Replacement Fund, which is now in its final stage.

Ms D’Ambrosio said the state government was doing what they could to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Victorians during the bush fire season.

“We’re investing extensively in the Grampians region as part of the Powerline Replacement Fund – which will decrease the risk of bush fires by 50 per cent.”