Sheffield Meeting Exposes Farmer Anger Over Transmission Line

By Nathan Calman on
10 February 2024

TasFarmers facilitated a town hall meeting at Sheffield for landholders affected by the Northwest Transmission Development, which will connect to the Marinus Link project.

The purpose of the Marinus Link project is to build another connection from Tasmania to Victoria, in the process supplying the National Energy Grid with renewable energy, and when the dams are low, as they were during the state's 2016 energy crisis, secure backup energy for Tasmania.

With national energy policy wandering like a rudderless ship over the past 30 years and mounting pressure to reduce carbon emissions, the Federal Government has hastily pushed the 'rewiring the nation' program, intending to modernise our electricity grid.

In this context, political leaders, policymakers, and proponents here in Tasmania see the transmission line and the link as an opportunity to enhance our interstate transmission capacity and meet the increasing demand for renewable energy in the market.

In turn, this will contribute to the reliability and efficiency of the nation's electricity networks and ensure a stable renewable power supply for consumers.

The crux of the issue, as we have seen first-hand is the competing priorities of securing renewable energy balanced against the impact on prime agricultural land, food security and regional communities.

What has been exposed locally and nationally, with protests in Canberra, is a need to ensure that renewable energy supply is not at the loss of prime agricultural land. Many have argued that this should consider locating renewable sources of power, closer to users in capital cities to reduce this impact.

The meeting at Sheffield had an atmosphere of confusion, distrust and anger towards TasNetworks as a result of their approach to creating engagement and social licence for this project. We have heard many landholders share negative experiences about the engagement process, with many feeling threatened by the prospect of compulsory acquisition.

The role of TasFarmers is to represent the interests of Tasmanian Farmer Members and the wider agricultural sector including the communities affected by the Northwest Transmission Line. We are advocating on their behalf and negotiating with TasNetworks and other stakeholders to ensure that if the project proceeds, landholders receive the most generous compensation and special benefit payment possible.

The land under threat by this development is some of the most productive and valuable agricultural land in Australia and the value of this should be reflected. Respect for landholders should be the starting point for all project engagements.

Since the meeting TasFarmers has written to State Ministers and TasNetworks requesting further information to provide clarity to landholders about a number of concerns raised in the meeting to provide a united voice for Tasmanian farmers.