2 March 2023

Farmers protest HumeLink as party representatives back a parliamentary enquiry

| Chris Roe
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Humelink protest

Protesters call for HumeLink’s wires to go underground at the NSW Farmers debate. Photo: Chris Roe.

A small but determined group of protesters picketed last night’s NSW Farmers Regional Debate in Wagga, calling for a rethink on the HumeLink electricity infrastructure project.

“They’ve got to move it underground. It’s not rocket science,” declared farmer Harry Lucas whose cattle property will be cut in half by the new power lines.

“These are babies compared to the big boys they will be putting in,” he said, pointing to a 30-metre steel tower nearby.

“It’s just gonna ruin the outlook and the whole of everything as far as spraying and aerial interaction with the farm.

“Transgrid has told us we should just suck it up.”

READ ALSO Dr Joe wants HumeLink to go underground but Transgrid warns of higher power bills

Fellow farmer Paul Sturges says the risk of fires is at the fore of everyone’s mind.

“We got burned out in 2000 and the simple reason we got burned out was we couldn’t fight the fire because of the power lines we’ve already got,” he said.

“You can’t put a plane up there and you can’t work under them, so you just have to let it go.”

Last night’s forum was the sixth and final debate hosted by NSW Farmers and focused on the key land use issues impacting agricultural production and productivity.

NSW Farmers debate

Nationals MLC Wes Fang called out the Energy Minister for his no-show. Photo: NSW Farmers.

Representatives from One Nation, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, Labor, the Greens and the National Party discussed a range of issues including solar farms and the HumeLink project.

There was some controversy ahead of the event with NSW Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean declining an invitation, saying he’d not received enough notice.

Nationals MLC Wes Fang attended in his stead and at one point, appeared to take a swipe at his Coalition colleague.

“I’m no energy expert; in fact, I got launched into here because Matt didn’t show up,” he said, before reiterating that all government projects have to be weighed against community expectations.

READ ALSO Wagga City Council calls for apology from Wes Fang over ‘childish’ comments

Transgrid estimates an increased cost of almost $8 billion to go underground, but One Nation MLC Rod Roberts challenged the figures and noted that undergrounding was now standard practice in metropolitan areas.

“You’ve got to spend a dollar to make a dollar,” he said.

“What about the cost that you as the community has borne and you as the taxpayer has borne recently as a result of the latest round of bushfires that we’ve had?”


HumeLink protesters warn of the fire risks of overhead wires. Photo: Chris Roe.

Towards the end of the open question time, a NSW Farmers member called out the “empathetic” Minister Kean for his no-show and asked the panellists to back Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr’s call for a parliamentary inquiry into undergrounding HumeLink.

Dr McGirr has suggested the project be put on hold and reevaluated now that the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project is experiencing delays.

While all speakers cautiously agreed, Mr Fang warned that inquiries could be partisan affairs.

“I’m happy to support an inquiry into this, but what I’ve discovered.. is that the inquiry process is often used as a parliamentary tool by parties, whether it be the opposition, crossbench or government, to get an outcome,” he said.

“So be careful what you wish for.”


Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr wants the project to be paused and reassessed. Photo: Chris Roe.

Dr McGirr described the meeting as a “breakthrough” and said that it was vital that proper costings were done to weigh expenditure against the savings over time.

“It costs a lot less to get it right the first time,” he said.

A spokesperson for Transgrid warned that increased costs would have a direct impact on consumer bills.

“Given the cost-of-living pressures being experienced by consumers, this is particularly pertinent and Transgrid is committed to doing everything it can to put downward pressure on customer bills.”

Protester Harry Lucas shrugged off the idea of a few extra dollars on the power bill and said it should be put in perspective.

“They’ve gotta do the job once and do it properly.”

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