Farmers and government representatives clashed once again, this time at the Stawell community meeting on Monday, October 16.
More than 200 vocal farmers, equipped with fire trucks and protest signs, filled the Stawell Entertainment Centre for the project meeting, voicing concerns about costs, due process and health problems with the potential 800km 500-kilovolt double-circuit overhead transmission line.
The Victoria to New South Wales Interconnector West project aims to connect the Victorian and NSW energy grids to "carry clean, low-cost renewable power from renewable energy zones in New South Wales and Victoria".
A St Arnaud Farmer questioned whether the state environment minister, Steve Dimopoulos, could veto the Environmental Effects Assessment.
An Australian Energy Market Operator spokesperson said while technically accurate, the government has yet to throw out an EES of this scale.
On August 22, 2023, the Minister for Planning required Ausnet Transmission Group Pty Ltd to prepare an EES under the Environment Effects Act 1978 to assess the project's potential environmental effects.
One Navarre farmer questioned the process of establishing VNI West, asking if it was a foregone conclusion or worth protesting if the Victorian and NSW governments are moving forward regardless of public pressure.
A second spokesperson said due process was necessary; however, disappointed farmers drowned out the response.
Another landholder raised concerns that 500-kilovolt double-circuit lines could affect livestock and landholders.
A new AEMO company, Transmission Company Victoria, was established to undertake early works in Victoria, including community, landholder and Traditional Owner consultations and ongoing investigations into the corridor and ultimate route.
Transmission Company Victoria aims to whittle the planned route down over the next two years to a final 70-120-metre easement to locate the transmission line with towers about 80 metres high.
The latest map for the controversial VNI West power line narrows width down to two kilometres wide.
The project could impact 500 properties through Bulgana, Marnoo, Swanwater, Oakville, Dingwall and Tragowel; however, TCV said its latest planned route aimed to keep clear of major towns such as Charlton, Boort and Kerang.
The power company also said sensitive agricultural, environmental and cultural areas "influenced" the work to refine the route.
Landholders can see where their property is in relation to the draft corridor by entering their property details into a new interactive map available on the TCV website.