Farmers Travel to Melbourne to Protest Renewable Transmission Projects


Hundreds of regional Victorian farmers and their vehicles have descended into Melbourne to protest two controversial transmission projects amid the state’s pursuit of net zero emissions.

On Aug. 15, a group of farmers whose lands are affected by the VNI West and Western Renewables Link projects held a rally in front of the Victorian Parliament building to voice their opposition.

The Victoria to New South Wales (NSW) Interconnector West, or VNI West, is a proposed 400-kilometre (250 miles) high-capacity transmission line connecting the two states’ electricity grids and renewable energy zones.

Meanwhile, the Western Renewables Link is a 190-kilometre transmission line that carries renewable energy from western Victoria to Melbourne’s north-west.

The farmers have been alleging that the two projects were subject to poor planning and execution.

They are also concerned that the projects could cause catastrophic environmental damage, increase bushfire risks, and destroy fertile agricultural lands, affecting the state’s food security.

“If the state government proceeds with these projects, it will cause immeasurable economic damage to local farmers and irreparable harm to the environment and landscape,” Emma Muir, the spokesperson for the Stop Labor’s Towers campaign said, as reported by the Herald Sun.

“Bushfire risk will skyrocket, high-value agricultural land that feeds Victoria will be destroyed, and land values will plummet.”

What Took Place

According to a video on social media, hundreds of protesters held banners and posters in front of the Victorian Parliament and called on the state government to listen to their opinions and look for alternative plans for the transmission lines.

Some banners read: “Protect our countryside, fight against the towers,” “No farm, no food,” and “You can’t eat electricity, keep off our farms.”

The rally was joined by a fleet of dozens of tractors and trucks which circled around the protest venue.

Speaking at the rally, an organiser said the Victorian government should stop the projects and have a proper conversation with the farmers.

“Stop now. We will help you get the plan right. The farmers here are ready to help you do it because we care about the environment just as much as everybody else does,” she said.

“We are making your food. We are making your energy. We are just asking to be respected and have our rights.”

Organiser Glenden Watts, whose farm could fall within the VNI West route, said farmers were outraged by the treatment from the Victorian government and energy authorities.

“It’s the lack of consultation, the lack of engagement, the lack of respect,” he said in comments obtained by AAP.

“They purely just want to bulldoze it through and don’t really give a stuff.”

The farmers’ concerns were echoed by National Party leader David Littleproud who said the Victorian government should suspend the projects for further planning.

“We need to have a national conversation about this,” he said.

“Let’s pause, let’s plan.”

Victorian Government’s Response

Prior to the protest, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews believed it was an honour for farmers to receive a proposal to build a transmission line on their land.

“It’s a very meaningful thing to have people come onto your land and say they’re going to build a big transmission easement through your farm,” he told reporters.

“That is a significant thing. No one is diminishing that.”

Nevertheless, he said the environmental assessment process needed to be carried out and that the government would hear farmers’ views through that process.

In February, the state government proposed to pay farmers $200,000 (US$130,000) over a 25-year period for each square kilometre of transmission infrastructure built on their properties.

However, the representative of the affected farmers said the amount was not enough to compensate farmers, considering it a slap in their faces.